(In French, On Cable TV, December 2018) The formula behind Tommy Boy isn’t complicated—take an outrageous comedian with a funny physique (that would be the late Chris Farley) and cast him as a man-child chaos-maker, then pair him up with a somewhat more conventional comedian with an ability to freak out in amusing way (that would be David Spade) as the straight man, and send them off on a road trip. There’s a sub-genre with a list of movies a mile long all revolving around the same concept, and Tommy Boy doesn’t break any new ground in following tradition. The details are unimportant, what with two young men trying to save their auto part company from going under by going on an extended sales trip. There’s some mechanistic character development, perfidious antagonists, comedy legends in secondary roles (Dan Aykroyd!) and a car that gradually breaks down over the course of the trip. As is tradition with road movies, it also features both characters singing along to a song. Narrative cohesion isn’t a big concern of the script, as much of the details are of the episodic one-thing-after-another variety. In execution, however, Tommy Boy depends a great deal on the specific comedy of Farley and Spade (better yet; both of them together), a pop-heavy soundtrack and some outrageous visual gags. (If you’re a fan of cars gradually falling apart, this is a movie for you.) It’s not good, it’s not memorable, it’s not clever but it just may be enough for an undemanding viewing in-between more substantial fare. Just don’t get Tommy Boy confused with the other Farley/Spade movie.
(Second Viewing, On Cable TV, September 2015) I’m pretty sure I saw Beverly Hills Ninja in theaters, three months before I started writing these online movie reviews in early-1997. There’s no wonder, though, as to why I’ve kept almost no memories of the film: It’s terrible. Starring Chris Farley as a dim-witted buffoon trained as a ninja, Beverly Hills Ninja is one pratfall after another, played broadly enough to appeal to all the kids in the audience. Farley is more annoying than endearing, and the film never loses a moment going for subtlety when endless hammering of the same joke is possible. Worse yet: Many of the physical gags can be seen coming long in advance, adding to the misery of the entire film. The bright spots are few and frustrating: Robin Shou is a far more enjoyable protagonist as a competent ninja fixing the title character’s mistakes, while Chris Rock shows up and doesn’t have much to do as the sidekick. There are echoes of Beverly Hills Ninja in Kung-Fu Panda, but the comparison is almost cruel to the latter animated feature. There are films best left in the sands of time, and Beverly Hills Ninja is an unremarkable example of those.