MOVIE REVIEW: “Tommy Boy” stars Chris Farley (Black Sheep, Beverly Hills Ninja), David Spade (The Wrong Missy, Joe Dirt), Rob Lowe (Wayne’s World, Parks and Recreation [TV series]), Bo Derek (Bolero, Ghosts Can’t Do It), Brian Dennehy (First Blood, Ratatouille), Julie Warner (Doc Hollywood, Stick It), Sean McCann (Chicago, Miracle), Zach Grenier (Fight Club, The Good Wife [TV series]), and Dan Akroyd (Ghostbusters , The Blues Brothers). It is directed by Peter Segal (Get Smart , Grudge Match), and written by Bonnie Turner (Third Rock from the Sun [TV series], That 70’s Show [TV series]) and Terry Turner (Wayne’s World, Funland).
When his recently deceased father’s brake pad company is on the brink of going out of business, dim-witted Tommy Callahan Jr. (Farley) must travel cross-country with his dad’s right-hand man, Richard (Spade), to sell brake pads and save the day.
I figured I’d wind down this month with a little blast from the past. “Tommy Boy” is a comedy flick I know all too well, having grown up with the Farley-Spade pair throughout my formative years of childhood. It’s a classic full of physical/sparring humor, fantastic comedic performers, and a whole lotta heart. And now, I’m reviewing it.
The 90’s was a terrific time for comedy. Jim Carrey came on the scene, people were getting experimental (“Being John Malkovich” anyone?), and Saturday Night Live alums were making their marks in cinema. It was only a matter of time before Chris Farley would get his leading role, having cameoed in a number of features leading up to this one (“Wayne’s World,” “Coneheads”). What one needs to understand when watching “Tommy Boy” is that it’s the ultimate Chris Farley experience. If you don’t like the guy (or physical humor), you probably won’t like the movie.
With that said, if you do like Farley (like me), you’re gonna have loads of fun. The man delivers on multiple levels, proving to be a tour de force in both comedy and heartfelt moments. Tommy Callahan was written for him, and probably the best role he could ever receive (at least when starting out). His chemistry with David Spade is one for the cinema books; as most people who worked on the film (and Saturday Night Live) have said, they were basically the next Laurel and Hardy. Spade’s quick verbal jabs as Richard contrasted the goofy, physical nature of Farley’s Tommy perfectly. They’re the best part of the film, and why wouldn’t they be? If you’re recommended “Tommy Boy,” it’s usually for the sake of those two guys and their collaboration. It’s just a shame that we only got two films out of them.
As I’ve said before, there’s a lot more talent that make up this movie. Rob Lowe plays another bad guy, Bo Derek flashes her bikini body, Julie Warner is the love interest, Brian Dennehy mans the ship, and Dan Akroyd is a snarky businessman. They all play to type, and boy do they do it well. In watching the behind-the-scenes of this feature, I began to understand just how improvised a lot of this movie was, in part to the actors who took up the screen. They were retooling the script on the daily, based on who had the better jokes. Spade came up with the Carpenters song scene, Lowe pitched the cow tipping sequence, Farley threw in the iconic line “holy schnikes.” It seemed like such a creative, collaborative atmosphere that ultimately worked in the filmmakers’ favor.
Rewatching this for analysis sake was a treat. I’ve seen it dozens of times and could’ve honestly written up a review without seeing it again, but I decided to take the night and revisit it (with some of my siblings in tow). Sure, the story is loose and built solely around the jokes; it’s a road trip movie about selling brake pads and saving a dying business. The antics that unfold play into the archetypes of our leads, but that’s what we want. Certian emotional beats could be a bit rushed, but overall the film does a good job balancing things out.
“Tommy Boy” is a fun, easy watch with hilarious moments, great performances, and an even better chemistry shared between Farley and Spade. If you like comedy, this is a must. FINAL SCORE: 87%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: