Ah, the time-honored buddy comedy. This subgenre seems like such a fun way to make a living, especially if what you’re making is quality entertainment. The formula for this kind of film is pretty undemanding, and as a director, as long as you have strong chemistry between your leads, your film should serve its purpose well enough. Buddy comedies are perhaps my favorite kind of films, just based on the fact that their only intention is to make the audience feel good. These are harmless distractions, not necessarily works of art. Today’s entry is no exception. It likely isn’t one that will be remembered by everyone for the rest of eternity, but for those who have seen it (and enjoyed it back in the day) are probably going to hold it close to their hearts for a long, long time. Welcome to November on TBT!
Today’s food for thought: Tommy Boy.
Release: March 31, 1995
Saturday Night Live-stars Chris Farley and David Spade team up together for a ridiculous adventure across the country as they attempt to save their hometown brake manufacturer, Callahan Auto from being bought out by the greedy, heartless Ray Zalinsky, a Chicago-based auto salesman.
Tommy Callahan (Farley), the son of Big Tom Callahan (Brian Dennehy) is not exactly the most useful tool in the shop. His graduation from college after a seven year stint results in a ‘D’ average, something which Tommy’s extremely excited about. Stumbling through a gigantic puff of weed smoke, now it’s time to join the family business with pops at the factory. Tommy and Richard (Spade) have remained buds over the years, though Richard is slightly annoyed by the ease in which Tommy’s managed to obtain a spot in a company that he had to work hard to join himself.
His cushy life is drastically altered when his father collapses suddenly and passes away on the same day he is to marry the beautiful Beverly (Bo Derek). Since the town of Sandusky virtually depends on the brake manufacturer for economic sustainability, and with the big man gone, people begin to panic — most notably, the banks.
To prove that he can actually do something for once, Tommy hatches a scheme to try and save the company (and ultimately his home town) by offering to assume his father’s role and go on a massive marketing and sales pitch nationwide. But he knows as well as anyone that he doesn’t have everything it will take to sell half a million brake pads — what they need to stay afloat. Tommy’s a few peanut M&M’s shy of a full bag.
So who better to enlist the help of than his lifelong friend, and Callahan Auto accountant, Richard? Naturally, there is strong opposition from the tightly-wound Richard, but seeing as there isn’t much of an alternative, he must bear down and deal with his dimwitted buddy.
The premise is no more original than a bowl of Corn Flakes, yet the chemistry between two of SNL’s finest (well, at least one of them) makes the cross-country adventure a timeless bit of film, one that can be watched over and over again. . .or at least until the disc becomes too scratched to play. Comic disaster awaits at every turn when Tommy turns out to be as bad at sales pitches as he might be at sailing. Or running. With each ‘No thanks’ that the team receive in the earlygoing, Richard comes that much closer to giving up on Tommy as a business partner.
As their client list eventually shrivels up to virtually nothing, and after Tommy screws up once too many, the friendship is put on trial. It all comes to a head outside a Prehistoric Diner, and the pair resort to fists, inane insults and an amazingly convenient plank of wood. It’s at this point Tommy loses what little self-esteem he had, offering up one of the most memorable scenes in any of his movies — but at the same time, Richard discovers that his road partner may not be so dumb after all. In a flash, the two rekindle their spirits and attempt to make a play for the Windy City, where they hope to change the heart of Zalinsky himself.
Tommy Boy‘s star-studded cast affords it a great deal more laughs than one might expect out of the standard road-trip/buddy-comedy — a package taken straight from the assembly line and built out of comedy scraps that have come before it; however, Peter Segal makes great use of his talented leads. Spade’s Richard is perhaps the best work he’s done to date: the number of smart-aleck comments he rips is off the charts, and are quite possibly the funniest things Spade’s ever gotten to say.
Not to mention, the ‘bad guys’ are thoroughly enjoyable as well, with Derek and Rob Lowe teaming up together to form a suitably incompetent foil for the two dysfunctional salesmen. Dan Aykroyd as Zalinsky certainly isn’t the centerpiece, but he makes the most of his contributions as a greedy corporate executive.
If anything, Tommy Boy offers another great avenue for highly-recitable line-o-ramas from the 90s, and keeping in the vein of Dumb & Dumber in terms of quality and quantity, it earns its place in the canon of buddy-comedy. I recall few movies that have so much of the humor amassing in one-liners. The movie’s also effectively sentimental, leaning on the earnestness of Farley to display a range of emotion throughout. Tommy may not be a highly intelligent person, but boy is the fat guy in a little coat lovable.
Recommendation: Silly, clumsy yet hardly original, Tommy Boy remains a cult classic to those who enjoyed not only Farley and everything he represented post-SNL, but for those who laughing. . .a lot. . .in movies. It doesn’t get much better than when Tommy tries to convince a potential buyer by telling him how much of a loser he is, or when asked whether he huffed paint as a kid, he can’t say “No.”
Running Time: 95 mins.
Quoted: “Holy schniekes!!!!”
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