Looking back at a fat guy in a little coat
The film takes two paths, one exploring Farley the person, and the other looking at Farley the performer, intertwining the two to get a fuller picture of the man. Thus you get stories of a rambunctious youth not above talking his penis out in class if it would earn him a laugh, to full-blown autopsies of some of his most memorable (and not so memorable) SNL sketches, like his famous "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker", which opens up a few avenues for remembering Farley, with David Spade and Christina Applegate sharing their experiences opposite the comedic dynamo. Stylish and well-paced, the documentary packs a good deal into a tight 94 minutes, though for casual fans, the focus on his younger days and family might get more play than hoped for.
In addition to interviews with his pre-fame friends and family, directors Brent Hodges (A Brony Tale) and Derik Murray (I am Evel Knievel) make good use of archival clips of Farley from his early days of improv comedy (including some clips of sketches from The Second City), home movies and personal photos, and one particularly handy and poignant early interview with David Letterman (which serves as a framing device for much of the film), in order to tell Farley's story, from his childhood through to his film career. The pair paint the picture of a loving man who just wanted to belong to a team or group, while at the same time clearly illustrating the demons that haunted him and that led him to become a self-destructive party machine. However, no matter the highs and lows, his ability and desire to get a laugh come through clearly from the testimonials of those who knew or worked with him.
The key to the film however are the people everyone knows, which is where the true power of this documentary comes from. Interviews with big names like Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Bob Odenkirk, Dan Ackroyd, Spade and a host of others who worked with Farley on SNL and in films, as well as, most interestingly ,SNL head Lorne Michaels, present honest and heartbreaking testimonials to what he was capable of as a person and a performer, but they don't hesitate to explore the dark side. Their frank discussion of what seems like an inevitable, unavoidable crash and an accounting of personal sadness about what they saw and tried to do to help, especially from Myers, Sandler and Odenkirk, raises the film far above what could have been just a fluffy tribute to a well-liked funnyman.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack naturally puts all the voices front and center, where they sound crisp and strong. There's repetition of the voices and score in the side speakers, while the rear speakers offer a very faint echo of the voices. The presentation is simple, but it is is clear, with no obvious downside.
Also included is a manual gallery of 54 family photos, all but one of which are from Farley's younger days.
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