Monday, May 6, 2013

As Disappointing As I Anticipated, Tommy Boy Is Largely Laughless

The Good: Decent direction and editing
The Bad: Most of the jokes garner (at best) a smile, not an actual laugh, Nothing superlative on the acting front, Very obvious plot/character progression.
The Basics: Tommy Boy is unfortunately repetitive and lowbrow, making for an unsatisfying (though fairly well-directed) film.

Nothing pounds home the differences between my wife and I than when she recommends a film to me that I have pointedly avoided my entire life. When I was in high school and watching cerebral films, many of my peers were raving about Tommy Boy and I just rolled my eyes. So, when my wife tonight said she was in the mood for it, I somewhat begrudgingly sat down to Tommy Boy. I’ll admit, I was thrilled when Rob Lowe showed up on screen. I should have remembered he would be in the movie, though it was a while ago that I read Stories I Only Tell My Friends (reviewed here!).

Tommy Boy might be the only full-length film with Chris Farley that I have actually seen and more than selling me on the supposed comic genius of Farley, the film actually made me respect Andy Richter just a little less. Much of Farley’s on-screen persona – when he is not presenting over-the-top physical comedy – is the exact timbre and beat pattern that Richter uses frequently in his comedy.

After getting the D+ he needs to graduate from college after seven years, Tom (Tommy) Callahan returns to his father’s company. Callahan Brake Pads is one of the last surviving businesses in Sandusky, Ohio, and Tom Callahan (Tommy’s father) is launching a new product line when Tommy returns. Tom is seduced by Beverly and Tommy is thrilled to meet his new soon-to-be step-brother, Paul. But, at the wedding of Tom and Beverly, Tom dies abruptly, throwing the family and the business into chaos. With the business and the town’s economy hanging in the balance, Tommy puts his inheritance on the line and he and Richard, Tom’s right hand man, try to save the company by going on the road to meet with any potential buyers for Callahan Brakes.

Back in Sandusky, Michelle – Tommy’s romantic interest – witnesses Paul and Beverly acting overly close and she begins to realize that they are not mother and son. As she begins to put together the scam the to are running to get cash out of Callahan Brakes, Tommy and Richard try to sell the half million units they need to in order to save the company.

On the plot front, Tommy Boy is a very typical road trip comedy. Richard and Tommy are an odd couple type pairing and they predictably grow over the course of the movie to tolerate and then even like one another. Richard’s car does not fare nearly as well, neither does the film’s ability to even get smiles from the viewer. Tommy Boy starts manic and steadily degrades into a listless attempt at a joke to another flatlining punchline. In fact, the script is so weak that the film frequently reuses the same jokes – a deer in the car and a dog in another car are essentially the same joke, regardless of how long it is allowed to play out and the protagonists singing to slow songs barely worked once. When the humor isn’t thinly-written, repetitive sarcasm, the movie has quite a bit of slapstick humor that didn’t grab me.

It is Julie Warner who has the superlative acting moment in Tommy Boy. While almost all of the performers fall well within their well-established niches, Julie Warner, who usually plays meek, smart characters, has a moment as Michelle where she explodes while yelling at some children and the scene is hilarious and carried solely by her acting ability. While her character emerges as the film’s hero, Warner is given far too little screentime, but she uses the time she has well.

David Spade is his usual sarcastic and smarmy persona as Richard. Richard is smart and the brains behind Callahan. Chris Farley is not playing a character significantly different to any number of frat boy type characters he played on Saturday Night Live. Rob Lowe makes for a decent villain as Paul in the movie, but none of the performances make the movie worth watching.

For other works with David Spade, please visit my reviews of:
Hotel Transylvania
Jack And Jill
I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry
The Benchwarmers


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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