Studio: Paramount Pictures
US Rating: Rated PG-13 For Crude Language and Humor, Drug-Related Material and Sexual Innuendo
Film Length: 86 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.0 Dolby TrueHD, French 2.0 Dolby Surround and Spanish 5.0 Dolby Digital Surround
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Review Date: May 14, 2009
“I'm just dandy! I got a bowl of chocolate pudding in my underpants!”
The Show - out of
Chris Farley could very well have grown into a more fulfilling comedic soul with something more to offer than sophomoric humor and a knack for nailing the likeable ‘doofus’ with a heart of gold who screams alot and remains disheveled and unkempt. He was beloved on Saturday Night Live, inhabiting a preponderance of affable buffoon characters and managed to roll that into a film career shortened by his untimely death.
Farley plays Mike Donnelly, brother to Al, a gubernatorial candidate vying for the role of Governer in Washington State in a tight race with a manipulative, cut-throat Governer willing to do almost anything to stay in the mansion that comes with that job. Mike wants to help his brother during his campaign – his enthusiasm can seemingly not be tempered, even when it results in embarrassing, damaging and detrimental results and press for his brother’s campaign. Mike is saddled with Steve, a campaign staffer played by the uptight half of the common duo, David Spade – and when ejected from the campaign and in trouble with the law (for something they did not commit, naturally) – comedy ensues as they trip into and out of situations on their way to save the day and turn the election.
Black Sheep was released just over a year after Tommy Boy, but it doesn’t deliver. Tommy Boy was a silly, loud, charming and entertaining film – and stands as perhaps Farley’s most enduring performance. So it was with much disappointment that Black Sheep was nothing more than a weaker derivative of that earlier success – despite a comparable domestic haul. Something is amiss as this film becomes an only mildly amusing patchwork of circumstances for Farley to display his very physical comedy capability and scream alot in pain or surprise. The well pitched antagonist to Farley in Tommy Boy, Spade is barely necessary here – providing only a moment or two of requisite plot nudging (such as it is) and a meager couple of attempts at owning his own comedic scenes.
The rest of the cast serve their purpose. Tim Matheson plays it straight as Mike’s older brother running for office, Timothy Carhart plays his mean assistant, Gary Busey plays a Vietnam War vet who doesn’t appear to realize the war is over and Christine Ebersole plays the ruthless current Governor. Busey appears in small enough doses to make his character work, but Ebersole’s cutthroat Governor offers little – a slight that is definitely the result of the screenplay. In fact, beyond some brainstorming for situations in which Farley can cause some amount of chaos – nothing else was done for the script – no real care or attention provided. And it shows.
The most notable moment in the entire film is during Mike’s onstage tirade at a Rock the Vote concert which culminates in the awkward, but funny scream for the audience to “kill whitey” – and the only moment in the film that I remembered from having seen it theatrically.
Black Sheep lacks charm and purpose, a good set of comedic moments born out of something other than teenage boy humor and Farley’s physical skills – and nothing in the way of a truly memorable moment, character or line (though I am sure some will disagree with me on that).
Paramount Pictures presents Black Sheep in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p High Definition. After what is certainly a very iffy opening, things improve somewhat. A bright image, nice and clean with reasonable black levels and even a surprisingly solid presentation of film grain. But there are times when the image is almost bland. The scene where Spade is accosted by Busey in the woods demonstrates the best this High Definition version has to offer and the clarity is very good and contrast very, very good. Perhaps best of all is the redness of Farley’s face after he has thrashed his head around – which he does several times in the film.
Black Sheep comes with a tepid English 5.0 Dolby TrueHD track, along with a French 2.0 Dolby Surround and a Spanish 5.0 Dolby Digital Surround. I can’t believe that the lack of oomph in the audio is solely the result of no LFE channel - but there is little going on in the surrounds for most of the film and bass levels are rather flat. The center channel is clear with the dialogue (well, screams and whatnot) and the occasional satisfying amount of activity in the front left and right save this audio from being a disappointment.
No extras, no stars.
Chris Farley had something– her was very likeable and deft at using his considerable bulk to comedic effect, however, despite the still enjoyable and funny Tommy Boy, no real satisfying opportunity to share it with film audiences came before his death in 1997 at the very young age of 33. If you enjoy this film then this blu-ray is the way to go – it’s the best the film has looked outside of the theater. It doesn’t deliver in the audio department but then again, doesn’t really diminish what the film has to offer.