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Monday, 29 October 2018

Retro Review: Tommy Boy (1995)

Tommy Boy
Cast: Chris Farley, David Spade, Bo Derek, Brian Dennehy, Dan Ackroyd, Rob Lowe
Genre: Comedy
U.S Box Office Gross: over $32 million

Plot: After his auto-parts tycoon father dies, the overweight, underachieving son teams up with a snide accountant to try and save the family business

'SNL Leads Can't Quite Elevate Comedy Into Hilarious Farce'

After Chris Farley's unexpected death aged 33, Tommy Boy was noted and pinpointed as the high point of his all too brief career, just as he was about to make that major transition as an SNL star to movie star. 

1995's Tommy Boy comes courtesy of producer, Lorne Michaels, who also gave you Mean Girls,!Three Amigos!, Wayne's World 1 & 2, The Guilt Trip with Seth Gordon and Barbara Streisand and Coneheads. With Wayne's World and Coneheads, they were fronted by Canadian SNL'ers Mike Myers and Dan Ackroyd and in Tommy Boy, in addition to being penned by Bonnie and Terry Turner, the humour and comic tone tends to be towing on the same lines as those films. 

Tommy Callahan III goes back to his hometown in Sandusky, Ohio after getting a D+ in college, where his CEO father makes him the heir of his car-parts factory. Tommy's father's Big Tom's so-called newlywed becomes a widow, after he dies and she and Rob Lowe's character hatch a scheme, as these con artists attempt to sell the company under Tommy and his pal, Richard's noses. Tommy and Richard, meanwhile, have to sell a million brake pads.

Operating as a Planes, Trains & Automobiles road trip movie of sorts, Tommy Boy, much like with Fathers' Day starring Robin Williams and Billy Crystal and Dumb & Dumber with Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey, is a comedy whereby the humour is generated through the differences of the paired characters. David Spade is a straight man, whilst big guy, Chris Farley is the funny wise guy and the butt of jokes and silly things happening to him. Which is all said and done - yet it's a shame that the comedy isn't as free-flowing & consistent that had me laughing in stitches. 

Personally, I like this less than Fathers' Day and Dumb & Dumber with Jim Carrey and Jeff Bridges that was released the year before, as far as the consistency of the humour and jokes go. Although this was a tad bearable than Black Sheep, which with the latter, didn't hold up well, at all. The comedy and jokes were not as rapid and quick-witted as I'd come to expect in a buddy comedy, as it was sub-par at most and the balance between the low-brow humour with tender moments almost works. Yet it doesn't. Some or a lot of people may not have loved Fathers' Day and Dumb & Dumber, due to the dumb humour that wasn't and isn't to their liking, but what made those films work for me was that through Robin Williams and Jim Carrey's onscreen antics, they did enough in those films and provided more of the comedy that I love seeing. 

Part of the problem is with Lorne Michaels: the man who helmed greats in Wayne's World 1 and 2, but then there is Ladies Man, Three Amigos!, Coneheads: comedies which should have been better but are in all honesty, not. The road trip part, the chase aspect, the wacky banter between Farley and Spade, which it could have done more with, it just didn't come through enough. The most peculiar thing about Tommy Boy is that most of it is played straight and it feels like an SNL sketch that has been stretched out to 1 hr, 40 mins. 

With Tommy Boy, Chris Farley is good and there is no doubting that he had lived on, he would have been able to hold his own in a starring lead in comedy films (like with Beverly Hills Ninja). To me, he was an extremely funny guy, but I wanted more of that silly goofiness coming from him, which never materialised and the story itself, is unimaginative and not very charming or engrossing at all. The plot, which apparently is 66 pages worth of scripting feels heavy and whilst David Spade and Chris Farley work well as a pairing, individually, it is Farley who goes beyond what Spade's character has and who makes it watchable, despite the limitations to the script. By taking away Farley, Tommy Boy would be instantly forgettable, as the droning story just isn't imaginative, nor developed well as it juggles both its sentimental feel and comedy. 

It is more a film about the car industry and boardroom meetings, which is boring with some scenes that feel like filler and Tommy Boy also fails to give its characters some substance. 

Memorable, chuckle-worthy scenes such as Chris singing ''Maniac'' whilst doused in petrol and singing 'fat guy in a little coat', are few & far between and unlike Fathers' Day and Dumb and Dumber, it just didn't hold my attention very often and this is far from the physical slapstick gag-filled comedy fest I'd come to expect. Seeing Chris Farley run into things is funny once, twice, but as the film went on, the comedy dried up and it just wasn't as amusing. 

Final Verdict:

For those who aren't very picky about their comedies and want something goofball-ish and silly, somewhat, Tommy Boy is a decent pick, but for others who like their comedies to be filled with plenty of slapstick, physical comedy, great one-liners and films that make them laugh hard in places, can look elsewhere. 

20+ years on this is far from the hilarious, bone-headed farce it has been lauded as, rather it is more of a '90s version of Planes, Trains & Automobiles: and a film I couldn't get into, personally. 

Besides, you can give me Beverly Hills Ninja over this film.


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