Tommy Boy (Holy Schnike Edition) Review
According to Chris Farley sometime before his death, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels told him that what killed John Belushi was that he always had to be the most outrageous person in the room. Farley’s life strangely mimicked his idol Belushi, and perhaps what killed them both was the very thing that made them so great. Their excess on-screen fueled by their excess off it, both dying in similar fashion aged 33.
Chris Farley’s big break came with Saturday Night Live, where he made his impersonations and characters come to life with many other talented up-and-comers. He was famed for his characterization of motivational speaker Matt Foley and Newt Gingrich, as well as a flabby Chippendales dancer and an unhealthy sports fan. He left Saturday Night Live in 1995 to pursue a career in film, and had cameo parts alongside other SNL alumni Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and Dan Aykroyd. He was the dumb cop in Airheads, and he was the kinetic bus driver in Billy Madison alongside Sandler, while he worked with Myers and Carvey in the Wayne’s World films, playing two different parts in each. In Coneheads Farley had the small part of boyfriend to Aykroyd’s alien daughter. He would go on to have starring roles in four films before his career was cut short, working alongside David Spade, and in his final film Almost Heroes (a title that bares a saddening undertone given his early death), with Friends star Matthew Perry.
Tommy Boy stands as a landmark in both Chris Farley and David Spade's careers as it is easily their best outing on film. Title character Tommy (Farley) is the only son of rich father Thomas Callahan played by Brian Dennehy. When returning home from college, Tommy is told by his Dad, that he has a new woman in his life who we find out is the young and beautiful Beverly (Bo Derek). They quickly marry, but not all turns out too well on the wedding day when Thomas has a heart attack and dies. Beverly acquires equal share of the Callahan business, and we soon learn that it was her only motivation for marrying Tommy’s father in the first place. However Tommy stands in her way so with his father’s long-term business associate Richard (David Spade), they go on the road in an attempt to save the company.
Essentially, the film is a road movie with Farley and Spade putting themselves in any situation they can think of, and playing off each other. Where problems could have potentially arisen with scenes feeling too much like they were cobbled together sketches, Bonnie and Terry Turner’s script keeps the story flowing and has an emotional depth rooted in the two leads. Farley and Spade look very relaxed on screen and while the written comedy lines are funny, their interplay, timing and chemistry places the level of entertainment on a higher plain. The geeky intelligence and guile of Richard, perfectly opposes Tommy’s loud-mouth stupidity with great effect, and you can tell they know it because they continue to use these traits against each other. Farley has a terrific eye for physical comedy and here, whether he’s breaking car doors or inadvertently smashing through hedges that have brick walls behind them, he excels. Spade uses his ability to deliver killer irony and put-downs with perfect timing, and the combination of their better attributes makes them a superb comedy double act.
As you’d expect, the film works best when the two leads are going at each other’s throats, so it’s not surprising the pace lags a little when some of the supporting players are going through the motions. Julie Warner as Michelle is a poor love interest, with very little believability in the relationship between Tommy and herself. Her performance is a little bland, and while the odd scenes they have together are sweet with one hilarious stand out, it does feel a little forced with no other need but to give the film an overtly happy conclusion. Bo Derek is also poor, leaving her evil stepmother without an emotional core, and not bringing anything resembling the idea that she could or even would go to the lengths she does to make money. However, this comedy hardly loses too many brownie points for the odd bad performance and some badly written roles. Rob Lowe as Beverly’s supposed son, is a perfect baddie, making sure things are still interesting when Farley and Spade aren’t on screen. Dan Aykroyd, appearing in a short cameo, is also excellent, making a small role funnier with just a contortion of his eyebrow!
Adam Sandler once said of Farley, ‘What really hurts is not getting to hang out with him ever again. He really was the only guy I ever met in my life that you were guaranteed to be happy hanging with. Even when he was down he still found a way to make you happy.’ Clearly, the joy he brought to people off screen, he brought to his fans on it, and like his inspiration John Belushi, who left us Blues Brothers, Farley’s comic genius will proudly live on in Tommy Boy.
The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and anamorphic enhanced. There is a notable improvement over the old region 1 edition as detailed below:
The new region 1 edition is much sharper, clearer and more detailed.
Old region 1
Holy Schnike Edition
Below we see the image improvement as the new version has much more detail and noise intrusion has been minimised:
Old region 1
Holy Schnike Edition
Old region 1
Holy Schnike Edition
Overall, Paramount have done a great job as the film has never looked better. Colours have a much richer texture making the rather bland photography look a lot more appealing, and grain is less noticeable than in the earlier release. The image has notably more depth than the first U.S edition, and since that was far from bad to begin with, Paramount should be commended for producing a much improved quality of picture here.
Paramount have also improved the sound quality as this Dolby Digital 5.1 track has notably more dynamic range – the sub-woofer adds a lot of depth to the track while dialogue has been cleaned up and better separated across the surround channels. The track is still largely front oriented but it is perfectly acceptable for this kind of dialogue driven comedy.
This two-disc DVD set is loaded to the gills with great features.
Feature Length commentary with director Peter Segal - Segal is an enthusiastic speaker who discusses the film with fond memories. He provides many interesting anecdotes about the production and working with Chris Farley and David Spade. There is some repetition between this and the making-of documentary however.
Tommy Boy: Behind The Laughter - This thirty minute documentary is an excellent look at the film’s production with lots of interesting anecdotes and footage shot on-set. There’s interviews with all the principle cast and production crew including newly recorded footage with David Spade, and old interviews with Chris Farley. The great thing about this featurette is it doesn’t have pretentious talking heads telling the viewer how great they are but people reminiscing about a project they are very fond of, and have every right to be. There’s some superb footage of Farley and Spade behind the scenes and the interview snippets with Lorne Micheals are very informative. Michaels’ idea that if Bill Murray and John Belushi had a child together, Farley would be the product, is very funny, and he has some great tales to tell from the production.
Stories From The Side Of The Road - Running approximately fourteen minutes, this featurette looks at how the comedy was constructed. Director Peter Segal and actor David Spade provide the bulk of the interviews which surprisingly don’t overlap with the ‘Behind The Laughter’ featurette. Again there’s some great anecdotes and information, and some funny footage of the actors on-set.
Just The Two Of Us - Featuring Chris Farley and David Spade in an interview recorded during the shooting of Tommy Boy, this ten minute featurette looks at the comedic chemistry between the film’s leads. This is again a lovely addition to the DVD, especially for fans, but there is an element of repetition and the comedians’ peers do talk a little too highly of them since comparisons with Laurel and Hardy seem exaggerated considering they only made two films together.
Growing Up Farley - This interesting addition to the DVD sees Farley’s brothers talk about his life and his career. This has a lot to offer Farley’s fans but is probably too short to be able to get to grips with what made the comic tick. Again, there is some repetition.
Storyboard Comparisons - Seven scenes are available to watch separately or collectively with original storyboards played alongside.
Deleted, Extended and Alternate Scenes - Several scenes are available to watch with introductions from director Peter Segal. The Faculty Parking Lot scene is priceless – see Farley mimic his idol John Belushi as he sets off loads of car alarms. Segal’s introductions disappear in the extended and alternate scenes but introductions don’t seem necessary since they are self-explanatory. The alternate takes are interesting because they show how the scenes were shot and played differently. There are five deleted scenes, fifteen extended scenes, and six alternate takes.
Gag Reel - Five minutes of messed-up lines and goofs on-set mainly featuring Farley doing pranks and in-jokes. For fans of the comic this is great fun, and for everybody else there’s plenty of laughs to be found.
Photo Gallery, TV Spots, Theatrical Trailer - The theatrical trailer is a lot of fun and really sells the film well. Several TV Spots and production photos are also available on the disk.
Much like Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in Blues Brothers, Tommy Boy invades the screen with a bumbling big-guy and the cocky little guy doing whatever outrageous stunt or sarcastic remark they need to get a laugh out of their audience. The film is so endearing given Chris Farley and David Spade’s love of good comedy, and so funny because of the way they play that comedy. It’s certainly their best work, as well as director Peter Segal’s most notable picture, so the fact this DVD is so well produced by Paramount is testament to their DVD department. The additional features range from the great to the good, whilst the improved picture and sound quality for this, a minor comedy classic, must be appreciated by fans. A superb comedy finally receives the superb quality DVD it deserves.