I Am Chris Farley (Blu-ray)

August 12, 2015 8 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

You know, there are certain events in my life where I can recall exactly where I was and what I was doing when something happened. I remember where I was on September 11 when the planes hit the twin towers, I remember where I was when I first heard about the O.J. Simpson car chase and oddly I remember exactly where I was when I heard about the death of Chris Farley. Three totally isolated and unrelated incidents, for sure, but all three had a pretty long-lasting impact on my life. Having grown up watching Saturday Night Live (referred to as SNL from this point forward), I was a big fan of Farley. His larger than life characters were portrayed with so much energy and vigor, I don’t think I’d ever be able to replicate any portion of his performance. Well me and everyone else, right? Who can forget his “dance off” with Patrick Swayze (who succumbed to Pancreatic Cancer in 2009) or his motivational speaker – Matt Foley (named after a childhood friend of Farley’s who is now a Catholic priest)? These characters hold a special place not only for those who watched them, but probably mores than those who experienced them with him. It’s been nearly twenty years since Farley’s passing and those who knew him best take some time to reflect on the larger than life star.

The events of Farley’s life are told by those who worked with him as well as his three siblings: Tom,  Kevin (who bears the most resemblance to Chris) and John. Coupled with a slew of familiar faces from Farley’s years at SNL and Second City, we’re regaled with stories of Farley, who so desperately wanted to be in the limelight. We see, from the very beginning, how Farley was always the class clown and wanted to be the center of attention. He joined the football team, would use certain parts of his anatomy on the typewriters in class and always felt the need to preform. Chris’s days at Marquette University (fans of the movie Tommy Boy will recognize his jacket) and his inclusion on the rugby team are all shared as well. We learn how he was drawn to a local improv theater where he developed some of his more recognizable characters and how he was spotted at Second City and hand picked to be a member of SNL by Lorne Michaels. Naturally his rise to superstardom was told by the likes of Mike Myers, David Spade, Adam Sandler and Molly Shannon (all SNL cast members) but with some that shared some time with him in movies and skits as well like Christina Applegate and Dan Aykroyd.

Farley’s star shone bright for a few years and there’s no telling what kind of career he’d have had if drugs had not gotten the best of him. I didn’t know that he was slated to be the original voice of Shrek and I’d said in the Grown Up‘s movie reviews that Kevin James was essentially playing the role that Chris Farley would have undoubtedly have had.  His story is an all too common tale in Hollywood, though. Names like John Belushi and River Phoenix come to mind as well. Farley was a guy who seemed to be hard not to like or at the very least – be attracted to. The comments by his friends and fellow performers show his excessive behavior that masked insecurity and being the “fat guy” – part of what made him so loved was probably also eating away at him for the majority of his life. To die at the tender age of 33 is a tragedy indeed, but I’d be willing to say that Chris Farley entertained countless millions far beyond his years. This is a well-made tribute to the man, myth and legend.

Video: How’s it look?

As we might expect, the majority of the documentary consists of archive footage from Farley’s early years on SNL and Second City. Some rough old home movies are shown as well as some family pictures. The 1.78:1 AVC HD image of the other stars is the only “new” footage found on the disc and it, not surprisingly, looks just as we’d expect. Certainly the archive footage from films and SNL can’t be faulted for the way it looks as it’s now a couple decades old. I don’t think I need to go into too much detail (pardon the pun) about how this looks as viewers will most likely get what they expect.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The included DTS HD Master Audio track is essentially limited to dialogue, though some ambient sound effects can be heard from the surrounds on a couple of occasions. Like the video, some of the audio is a bit mushy from the archived material, though the “new” footage has vocals from the different performers that sounds strong and crisp. Even before I saw Bob Odenkirk’s face, I knew that trademark raspy voice from Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad – so you’ll hear no complaints from me on the audio front.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Most documentaries aren’t know for having a slew of supplements and this is no exception. Still, there’s a few tidbits included so let’s take a look.

  • The Farley Brothers . . . (And Sister) – This twenty minute piece features more commentary by Farley’s brothers who also participated in the main feature. It’s more of the same, but a bit more heartfelt and a welcome inclusion on the disc.
  • Photo Gallery – More family photos as well as some not seen in the main feature. Another welcome inclusion.

The Bottom Line

“…you can’t live your whole life as if you were performing on a stage.” – Bob Odenkirk

Chris Farley was a force and there’s no denying that. He lived hard and fast and life, fame and success got the best of him. And that’s too bad. Farley’s starring roles were limited to Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, Beverly Hills Ninja and Almost Heroes though he had bit parts in a few other SNL films like Wayne’s World, Coneheads and Billy Madison.  This documentary pays homage to the late comedian and does it in a most tasteful way. Recommended.

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