Like so many modern American comedies, Tommy Boy makes no pretense of reality. Despite being set in economically depressed Sandusky, Ohio, Tommy Boy is a cartoon built on opposing comic archetypes: endearingly pure-hearted fat slob and tightly wound beanpole get thrust together and sent on a road trip. That's all well and good if the movie "brings the funny": after all, the great Golden Age comedy teams were hardly social realists. But the slapdash Tommy Boy, sent through producer Lorne Michaels' Saturday Night Live-to-big-screen pipeline, doesn't have a whole lot to offer.
The fat slob in question is Chris Farley, the burly and energetic comic whose run on Saturday Night Live and handful of films earned him a large group of loyal fans (Farley was emphatically enshrined after his untimely drug-related death in 1997). Farley plays Thomas R. Callahan III, heir to family-run Callahan Auto Parts. On his graduation from Marquette University after seven long years, Tommy reunites with his loving father (Brian Dennehy), who fearlessly gives his son new responsibility and an office with a window. The latter prize is only one of many details to rankle the "beanpole," David Spade's Richard Hayden. Supreme snarkmeister Spade works his preppie-gone-to-seed act for all it's worth.
Tommy and his dad are a loving and fun-loving pair, but it's blindingly obvious that Dad won't remain in the picture for long. In his absence, young Tommy must step up to save the company, and Richard--pledged to look after Tommy--must go along for the ride. The cross-country trip that follows is full of the usual silly road-trip yuks as the two slowly bond and come into their own as auto-parts salesmen. Subplots incorporate a few more familiar faces: Bo Derek as Dennehy's new wife; Rob Lowe as her son; and Julie Warner as Tommy's old high school friend Michelle, an unlikely but sweet romantic foil. Further ensuring Tommy Boy is at least watchable is Dan Aykroyd as Ray Zalinsky, American Auto Parts King.
The loose plotting makes sense when you consider that director Peter Segal started shooting (by scheduling necessity) with, at most, 66 pages of script (credited to Bonnie & Terry Turner, with an uncredited rewrite by Fred Wolf, all at one time SNL writers) . That kind of money-burning contempt for art is par for the course in Hollywood, but it also underlines the pressure put on comic stars (many bred on improv stages like Second City) to deliver viable material. Farley and Spade have a definite chemistry, and they do their best to pick up the slack: some of the little moments along the way almost make the enterprise worthwhile. Farley's childlike enthusiasm and fearless physical comedy (you will believe a fat man can cartwheel) make a nice complement to Spade's surgical insults.
That said, when one considers the film's most memorable moments, they're pretty paltry or derivative: Farley wearing Spade's jacket and crooning, "fat guy in a little coat"; Farley and Dennehy double-teaming "What I Say" in an apparent attempt at some Blues Brothers afterglow; a highway run-in with a deer; Farley loudly play-acting with toy cars; and Farley's catchphrases "That's gonna leave a mark" and "Holy schnikes!" For the undemanding, it's a decent time-waster, but audiences deserve more craft in their comedies.
Another catalog title upgraded to Blu-ray by Paramount, Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition certainly looks better than it did on DVD. The same high-def transfer is repurposed, but Blu-ray's greater capacity means a sharper image with more information packed into each frame. On the downside, dirt and dust remain from the source and the colors seem a bit dull (though that seems in keeping with the source, as well). On the upside, detail is notably improved and the picture stays steady throughout, with no evident digital artifacting. There's certainly no quibbling to do over the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, which maximizes the film's thirteen year-old soundtrack to its best effect.
The Blu-ray ports over all of the DVD's special features, beginning with a commentary by director Peter Segal. It's a bit spotty, but Segal knows what people want to hear and offers up plenty of reminiscences about Farley.
The 2005 Featurettes (59:56 with "Play All" option) also return: "Tommy Boy: Behind the Laughter," "Stories from the Side of the Road," "Just the Two of Us," and "Growing Up Farley" serve up f=some outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage while covering the film's rocky but warmly recalled production, the brotherly rapport between the stars, and the actually brotherly rapport between Chris Farley and his brothers Kevin and John. Participants include Segal, David Spade, Lorne Michaels, Chris Farley (in archival clips), Rob Lowe, Brian Dennehy, Bo Derek, Julie Warner, Dan Aykroyd, associate producer Michael Ewing, executive producer Robert K. Weiss, writer Fred Wolf, editor William Kerr, cinematographer Victor J. Kemper, and Kevin Farley & John Farley.
Also included are 7 Storyboard Comparisons (13:54 with "Play All" option), 5 Deleted Scenes (6:43 with "Play All" option) with introductions by Segal, 15 Extended Scenes (22:19), 6 Alternate Takes (4:18), a Gag Reel (4:16), Photo Gallery, TV Spots, and the Theatrical Trailer (2:28, HD). There's no question it's a definitive special edition for Tommy Boy, one that's essential for fans of Farley and/or Spade and even more enticing in Blu-ray.
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