Netflix Movie Month "Tommy Boy" Review

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An incompetent, immature, and dimwitted heir to an auto parts factory must save the business to keep it out of the hands of his new, con-artist relatives and big business.

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Rating: PG-13
Length: 97
Release Date: March 31, 1995
Directed by: Peter Segal
Genre: Comedy

"Tommy Boy" is a Saturday Night Live vehicle starring the comedic duo of a bumbling Chris Farley and the ever-sarcastic David Spade. It is essentially a buddy comedy combined with a road trip and touches on plenty of the tried-and-true tropes of the genre. Chris Farley plays an immature guy who embarks on a journey to learn things about his own self-worth as well as the meaning of friendship after the death of his father. David Spade plays the cynical yet obsequious assistant to his late father.

"Tommy Boy" was a big audience hit upon release, but critics were mixed, with many viewing it as a trite, Saturday Night Live juvenile comedy. There is no doubt that the comedy in "Tommy Boy" is juvenile in quite a few instances; however, it is undeniably funny in the same way that the chemistry between Farley and Spade is undeniable.

Chris Farley is "Tommy Boy," or, rather, Thomas R. Callahan the Third. He barely manages to graduate from his college and, afterward, returns to his hometown in Ohio. Once there, his father gives him a high position at the auto parts plant that he owns. His father, known as Big Tom, then reveals to Tommy that he intends to marry a woman he met at a fat farm, who is played by Bo Derek. The woman also happens to have a son, played by Rob Lowe, who is to become Tommy's stepbrother. At first Tommy is delighted to welcome his new brother and even takes him cow tipping, much to the latter's displeasure. Here, Chris Farley grabs laughs with how he completely ignores his new brother's obvious dislike of him.

The wedding comes along, and Big Tom dies. What follows is a somewhat obvious power grab by Bo Derek's character and her son, who turns out to not really be her son. However, Tommy is typically oblivious to all of this and sets out to save his dad's company as well as his own hide by embarking on a cross-country road trip with his father's assistant, Richard, as played by David Spade.

Meanwhile, Bo Derek's character attempts to sell the company to Big Tom's rival, Ray Zalinsky, who is played in appropriate deadpan by Dan Aykroyd, another SNL regular at the time. Aykroyd's bland yet slick character is the perfect foil to Tommy's trusting, childish personality.

Tommy actually idolizes Ray and thinks he is the pinnacle of sales expertise due to his over-the-top commercials. On the road, Tommy tries to emulate Ray, but his hyperactivity and anxieties take over and ruin the majority of his sales, much to Richard's chagrin. Spade's dry, put-upon exasperation with Farley's child-like antics are a large part of the draw in this film. Chris Farley is completely over-the-top, while David Spade has the quiet air of accepting his fate while making sarcastic digs that Farley's character never gets, making a truly classic comedic clash.

The turning point of the movie is when the two end up at a diner and Tommy convinces a grumpy waitress to serve them food even though the kitchen is closed. Richard points out his ability in closing that deal, and Tommy regains a bit of confidence in his ability to sell. The two then proceed to have some success, only to be sabotaged by Rob Lowe's character, who changes computer records to eliminate Tommy's sales.

This leads to the proposed sale to Ray Zalinsky, and it is up to Tommy and Richard to stop it. From here, much of the movie turns out how the viewer expects, with a sort of feel-good ending. Tommy learns what it means to have friends who are supportive and learns the value of being responsible for others. As it turns out, Ray intends to fire all the workers at his father's plant, and that is one of the things that spurs Tommy into action.

"Tommy Boy" was rather famously hated by critics when it came out. Lambasted as a poor copy of a Jim Carrey movie, it hit the most-hated list of top critic Roger Ebert, and then-actress Bo Derek was even nominated for a Razzie Award. However, audience reception was undeniable, and the movie did well in both theaters and upon rental release. The chemistry between David Spade and Chris Farley was undeniably funny, as the two were polar opposites both in appearance and comedic talent. Farley's earnestness as a bumbling idiot was part of his appeal, while David Spade's dry wit was the perfect foil.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5