There are a ton of parallels between the Chris Farley/David Spade comedy team and that of John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd. Both teams began in the Saturday Night Live arena. It was that physical big/little guy combination that has its roots with Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello. Both teams were at the height of their careers when a drug overdose would claim the wilder member of the team. Both of the deceased comedians left behind at least one successful brother to carry on the name in show business. Tommy Boy was by far the best of the films this duo made before Farley’s tragic overdose in 1997.
Tommy Boy Callahan has been a screwup since he was a kid. It wasn’t looking much better as he matured into adulthood. After 7 years Tommy finally graduated college with a celebrated D+ grade. Now his father, Big Tom (Dennehy) wants Tommy Boy to come and take his place as the heir apparent in their auto parts manufacturing plant. Tommy’s best friend since childhood is Richard (Spade) who has been Big Tom’s right hand man all along. He feels cheated but is tasked with getting Tommy Boy ready to eventually run the company. Big Tom is also getting ready to marry a hot babe 20 years his junior, Beverly (Derek). At the wedding Big Tom suddenly dies, and now a group of con artists are trying to take control of his plant so that they can sell it to their biggest rival, Zalinksky (Aykroyd). Now it’s up to Tommy Boy and Richard to hit the road and sell a half million worth of brake pads to keep the company from defaulting to the bank, and falling into the hands of the con artists, who are working to place roadblocks in their way. Can they save the plant?
Most of the film is merely a playground for Farley’s particularly physical comedy. Spade is mostly the straight man and the dynamic works, for the most part. A lot of it is a road film, giving Farley and Spade the necessary time together. The systematic destruction of Richard’s prize car is one of the better running jokes in the film. Don’t look for an overly complicated script or innovative cinematography here. This film delivers exactly what it claims to: Chris Farley and David Spade. Most of the time the film is merely an extension of some of their more famous Saturday Night Live skits together. Director Peter Segal is smart enough to put them into the best positions he can and just get out of the way. The Aykroyd character is definitely underused. He does a great job of turning what was essentially a cameo into a rather rip-roaring performance. It would have been nice to see the three of them work more in the future.
Tommy Boy is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 You get a pretty decent 1080p transfer using an AVC/MPEG-4 codec. The bit rate averages a solid 33 mbps average. Let’s be frank here, shall we? This isn’t the kind of film that simply demands to be released in high def. If you have a previous version, you’re likely going to be satisfied with it. But if you want a video upgrade, this disc certainly offers you that opportunity. Detail is solid enough to notice quite obviously the stunt double in Richard’s car when the hood flies off. Everything has been improved from the earlier release. Contrast and black levels are relatively solid throughout. There is a touch of grain, particularly in the early stages of the film, but it should not be considered a flaw in the presentation. It looks pretty good, but that’s not why you like this film, now is it?
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is a bit of a disappointment. I expected the songs to really pop, but they never did. There’s a pretty good soundtrack here with a hefty collection of solid gold songs that don’t ever sound as good as a mediocre CD release. Dialog is fine here, and that’s what you’re likely looking for anyway. This isn’t an explosive or aggressive mix. There are a few moments that bring your surrounds to live. Your sub will snooze most of the time.
There is an Audio Commentary by Peter Segal. He exhibits a lot of reverence for the film and a ton of respect for Chris Farley.
All of the features are in standard definition.
Tommy Boy – Behind The Laughter: This half hour long feature is a nice tribute to Chris Farley and his work with David Spade. Friends and co-workers talk about Farley, including his brothers.
Stories From The Far Side Of The Road: A few of the crew’s own real life road stories inspired many moments in the film. Here they recount some of these experiences. The rest of this 14 minute feature shows cast and crew talking about working on the film.
Just The Two Of Us: A nice 10 minute tribute and examination of the Farley/Spade relationship.
Growing Up Farley: The surviving Farley Brothers spend 7 minutes reminiscing about their childhood with Chris. There are some rather sweet little stories here, making it a worthwhile visit. There is some 8mm footage from their childhood years featuring Chris.
Additional Scenes: Separated into Deleted, Extended, and Alternate Takes, you get about a half hour of footage here. Within each group there is a play all, but you can’t just play the entire collection at once.
Gag Reel: 4 minutes of the standard mess-ups and goofing around.
The features are rounded out with Storyboards, TV Spots, and a Trailer.
Sometimes a film is intended simply to entertain. Tommy Boy fits that bill perfectly. I guess there are some bittersweet moments when viewed after Farley’s death. I still get the same feeling when I watch The Blues Brothers. Aykroyd once said years after John Belushi’s death that his friend was missing a hell of a ride. That pretty much sums up what I feel when I see Tommy Boy. I see a ton of potential that will never be realized. So you do get your comedy, but the emotions can’t be avoided. It’s like this comedy “comes with a thin candy shell”.