- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Paramount
Reviewed by Jamey Codding
he value of onscreen chemistry can't be dismissed. Take "Tommy Boy," for example. There's nothing special about Bonny and Terry Turner's script -- the writing is mediocre, many of the jokes are obvious and the plot is formulaic. But in the hands of Chris Farley and David Spade, who first teamed up on "Saturday Night Live" and later in "Coneheads," "Tommy Boy" wound up being much funnier than it should've been. In fact, the film became one of the surprise hit comedies of the 1990s and, in the process, propelled Farley and Spade into fleeting superstardom.
Recent college grad Tom Callahan III (Farley), still basking in the glory of his hard-earned D+, heads home to work for his father's auto parts company. Recognizing his son's dire need for guidance and supervision, Big Tom Callahan (Brian Dennehey), an immensely successful businessman who "could sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman in white gloves," assigns corporate lackey Richard Hayden (Spade) as Tommy's watchdog. But when Big Tom keels over during his wedding reception, Tommy and Richard hit the road on a sales trip in an effort to stop Beverly and Paul Barish (Bo Derek and Rob Lowe), Tommy's new step-mother and step-brother, from selling Callahan Auto to top competitor Ray Zalinski (Dan Aykroyd).
Aside from Farley and Spade, whose performances netted them an MTV Movie Award for Best Onscreen Duo, the rest of the cast is solid but unspectacular in their roles, though the casting of Dennehey as Tommy's father was spot-on. Derek and Lowe are fine as Tommy's scheming extended family, as is Julie Warner, who plays Tommy's love interest Michelle Brock. With this kind of meager competition, Aykroyd actually stands out in his bit part as automotive giant Ray Zalinski, but "Tommy Boy" is still unequivocally the Farley & Spade show.
In one corner, you've got Tommy, a warm-hearted clod whose genuine intentions are all too often thwarted by poor execution. And in the other corner, there's Richard, a cold-hearted prick whose selfish intentions have led to a lonely, unsuccessful life. This Abbott and Costello-like dynamic forms the heart and soul of the film and produces a horde of classic one-liners ("Does this suit make me look fat?" "No, your face does."), and while Farley and Spade revived this relationship one year later in "Tommy Boy 2" (AKA "Black Sheep"), this will forever stand as the duo's crowning moment. For proof, check out Farley's and Spade's post "Tommy Boy" career paths: The redundant "Black Sheep" was popular with the "Tommy Boy" crowd for obvious reasons, but Farley's next two films, "Beverly Hills Ninja" and "Almost Heroes," were mediocre at best, while Spade starred in blockbusters like "Joe Dirt" and "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," and can currently be seen in commercials shilling for Capital One. Not exactly an upward trend, which makes "Tommy Boy's" success even more remarkable.
As far as quotable movies go, this one can go toe-to-toe with just about any other '90s comedy. It has its flaws, for sure, but not enough of them to overshadow the magical Farley/Spade combo. Like its late, great co-star, "Tommy Boy" is memorable, magnetic and absolutely hilarious. Featuring Chris Farley at his goofiest, zaniest, clumsiest best, this is the way most of us will forever remember the former "SNL" star. Ironically, the same thing could probably be said about Spade.
Holy Schnike Edition Blu-Ray Review:
This is more like it! After being subjected to one lame "special edition" DVD after another (see: "Half Baked: Fully Baked Edition"), someone finally got it right. The Holy Schnike Edition release of "Tommy Boy" is loaded with special features, and better yet, none of them have been axed from the Blu-ray edition, whose only real contribution is in making a 13-year-old movie look better than ever. There are extras staples like an audio commentary from director Peter Segal, deleted/extended scenes, a gag reel and the theatrical trailer, along with six alternate takes, seven storyboard comparisons, 19 TV spots and an awesome photo gallery. But what really sets this collection apart are the four featurettes.
"Tommy Boy: Behind the Laughter" is a typical behind-the-scenes look at the film, featuring interviews with Segal, Spade and producer Loren Michaels, among others. The 15-minute "Stories from the Side of the Road" gives "Tommy Boy" fanatics a look at the origins of some of the film's most memorable scenes, including "Fat Guy in a Little Coat" and "We're Burning Alive," while also revealing just how many of these scenes were ad-libbed by Farley and Spade. "Just the Two of Us," meanwhile, examines in great detail the friendship between Farley and Spade, who were described during the feature as "an old married couple" by Rob Lowe. We also learn that Farley downed three cups of coffee in preparation for each scene and later wondered why he couldn't sleep at night.
Finally, "Growing Up Farley" gives Chris Farley fans something they'll no doubt cherish. In interviews with Kevin and John Farley, Chris' younger brothers, we hear some classic childhood stories and also get to see a few clips from Farley family home movies. Later in the segment, Lorne Michaels describes Farley in a somewhat disturbing way: "If Bill Murray and John Belushi had had a child, or Aykroyd and Belushi had a child, it probably would've been Chris." The idea is right, but the visualization is so, so wrong.