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Blu-ray Review: Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition (25th Anniversary)

March 31, 2020

By John Corrado

Exactly 25 years ago today, on March 31st, 1995, the road trip comedy Tommy Boy was released in theatres in North America. In honour of the occasion, Paramount sent me over a copy of the 2017 Blu-ray re-release, dubbed the Holy Schnike Edition, for review. I had seen the film before, and watching it again was an absolute pleasure.

Directed by Peter Segal, directly following his debut feature The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, and produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, Tommy Boy stars the mismatched comedy duo of Chris Farley and David Spade, appearing at what was the height of their stardom on SNL in the 1990s.

At the start of the film, Thomas Callahan III (Farley) finally graduates college after nearly a decade with a D+, and he is the type of person who is completely happy with this grade, because it means he didn’t fail. Tommy returns to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, (the film was incidentally actually shot in Toronto and surrounding area), where he is heir to his father’s (Brian Dennehy) auto manufacturing company, Callahan Auto Parts.

Tommy’s father has just taken a new wife, Beverly (Bo Derek), who brings with her an adult son (Rob Lowe, uncredited), whom Tommy is excited to have as a brother. When Tommy’s father unexpectedly dies, and the bank is reluctant to renew a loan on the factory, Tommy sets out on a road trip with his father’s former right hand man Richard (Spade) to try and sell enough brake pads in order to save the company, before it can be bought out by slick Chicago salesman Zalinsky (Dan Aykroyd).

Like many comedies that are now considered classics, Tommy Boy didn’t get the greatest reviews when it was first released, but it was a modest success at the box office that proved popular with audiences, gaining in stature as the years went on. It’s now rightfully ranked among the best comedies of the 1990s, and the great chemistry between Farley and Spade is its defining feature. Spade is the snarky, uptight straight man to Farley’s freewheeling screwup, and the two of them trade barbs back and forth, (“You know, a lot of people go to college for seven years,” Tommy protests. “I know, they’re called doctors,” Richard fires back), while also developing a bond throughout the film.

Yes, Tommy is a screwup, but he also remains completely sincere, and there is something deeply satisfying about watching him blossom into a persuasive salesman. The film is super enjoyable to watch, working as a sort of cinematic comfort food. It’s filled with iconic little comic moments (i.e., “Fat Guy in a Little Coat”), and is often really funny, but it’s also twinged with bittersweetness and has just the right dose of sentimentality. The film’s emotional pull is made greater by the fact that Farley passed away two years after its release at the age of 33, and to say that his death was untimely and that he was taken from us far too soon is a vast understatement.

In addition to showcasing his sharp comedic skills and great physicality as a performer, never shying away from pratfalls and moments of outsized physical humour, Farley also handles the film’s dramatic moments quite well, revealing his range as an actor and bringing a good deal of heart to Tommy Boy. In many ways, this should have just been the prelude to what was shaping up to be a promising film career, and I will remain forever curious how Farley would have done in a straight up dramatic role, something that, from the glimpses we get here, I’m sure he would have handled brilliantly.

While Farley went on to star in a few more movies, including reuniting with Spade for Black Sheep a year later in 1996, Tommy Boy will live on as his finest work. It’s a shining testament to his strengths as an actor, as well as a wonderfully entertaining showcase for a comedic talent whose light went out far too early. It’s a road trip comedy and a buddy movie that not only still holds up a quarter-century later, but is perhaps better in hindsight than many initially gave it credit for.

The Blu-ray also includes a good deal of bonus material, starting with a commentary track by Peter Segal. This is followed by four featurettes, about an hour in total. Tommy Boy: Behind the Laughter is a half-hour piece that offers a good overview of the film’s production; Stories From the Side of the Road sheds light on how some of the film’s most iconic moments came to be; Just the Two of Us examines the onscreen and real life chemistry between Farley and Spade, including the epic fights they had on set; and Growing Up Farley features Chris’ brothers John and Kevin sharing stories from their childhood.

These are followed by storyboard comparisons, a selection of deleted and extended scenes as well as alternate takes, a gag reel, a photo gallery, TV spots, and the original theatrical trailer for the film. It’s a good amount of content to back up an already solid feature presentation.

Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 97 minutes and rated PG.

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 2, 2020 12:24 am

    A classic, indeed!


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