reasons of girth, Chris Farley was often compared to his hero John Belushi when
he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live.
Perhaps for the same reason, we too readily accepted his tragic early demise.
As iconic as Belushi might be, Farley had a good-hearted Chaplinesque appeal
that none of his contemporaries can match. Viewers get a sense of how genuine
his aw-shucks persona really was in Brent Hodge & Derik Murray’s
documentary, I Am Chris Farley (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
grew up in a loud, loving family in Wisconsin, with a garrulous father much
like Brian Dennehy’s character in Tommy
Boy (a much more autobiographical film than causal fans may have realized).
For a while, Farley was a reasonably successful salesman for his dad’s company,
but a chance encounter with semi-professional theater changed the trajectory of
his life. His stints in regional theater led to a residency with Chicago’s
famous Second City Theatre improvisational comedy troupe, which at the time was
practically the farm team for Saturday
Night Live (a sketch comedy show that once aired on NBC after the Saturday
night local news—and who knows, maybe it still does, but nobody has seen it
Hodge, Murray, and screenwriter Steve Burgess devote the lion’s share of the
film to his SNL period (1990-1995). That
is what people will be most interested in—and sadly, Farley would tragically
die soon after in late 1997. Arguably, Matt Foley, the motivational speaker
with unfortunate living arrangements, represents the last truly classic SNL skit. As written, the humor of the
situation is quite funny, but Farley’s efforts to break-up his buddy David
Spade and guest host Christina Applegate made it legendary. Yet, the best part
of the story comes when IACF identifies
who the real Matt Foley is, because it reveals so much about Farley.
Hodge & Murray paint a comprehensive portrait of Farley as a devout
Catholic and a devoted friend and brother. Fortunately, they secured the Farley
family’s participation, because his brothers’ reminiscences really help fill
out the picture of someone so easy to caricature. They also scored sit-down
on-cameras with many of Farley’s famous friends and colleagues, including
Spade, Adam Sandler, Jon Lovitz, Jay Mohr, Bo Derek (who still looks
fantastic), and Dan Aykroyd.
hits theaters shortly after the release of Bao
Nguyen’s SNL doc Saturday Night, but it is by far the superior film. One could say
the Farley profile is one hundred times better than the shallow, smugly
self-congratulatory, slavishly PC bore that quickly exited theaters, but that
would still unfairly imply it is a bad film. In fact, IACF is quite a good film, because it is so surprisingly endearing.
Basically, it gets right everything that Saturday
Night gets wrong. Ultimately, IACF will
increase viewers’ appreciation for Farley as an individual and the value of his
work. Recommended for fans of Farley and Second City, I Am Chris Farley opens this Friday (7/31) in New York at the AMC
Empire, in advance of its August 10th premiere on Spike TV.
Labels: Chris Farley, Documentary, Saturday Night Live