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What to Watch: Tommy Boy

Fat guy in a little coat.” “Fat guy in a little coat.” That’s right, there is a fat guy in a little coat, and that “fat guy” is the hysterical actor/comedian Chris Farley. I mean, what else do I have to say to make you want to watch this film?

Fine, I’ll give you a tad more to go on. “Tommy Boy,” released in 1995, is a comedic masterpiece. Chris Farley stars as Thomas R. “Tommy” Callahan III, the son of Thomas R. Callahan II (Brian Dennehey), who is the head of Callahan Auto, the family’s auto business.

David Spade, a close friend of the late Farley, stars as Richard Hayden, who is incredibly irked by the rather joyous (and dumb) Tommy.

In real life, Farley and Spade were close friends. During their tenure on Saturday Night Live, the duo performed dozens of memorable skits that garnered widespread acclaim. When Farley suddenly passed in 1997, Spade was devastated.

In fact, he was so destroyed by his passing, Spade did not attend his best friend’s funeral. To this day, he regrets not going, but he feels it was the best decision for his life.

Christopher Crosby “Chris” Farley was just 33. He had died from a “speedball” overdose (a heroin and cocaine concoction). Those closest to him had no idea of his addiction, including Spade himself.  

In an interview with, Spade noted how inseparable they were, saying that they were “like an old married couple.” With that in mind, their chemistry in the film feels real.

“Tommy Boy” is not a clever film. The plot is run-of-the-mill, the characters are flat and the film is quite dumb. However, that is nowhere near enough to kill the likability of the dimwitted lead and his far-fetched adventures.

In typical Farley fashion, he delivers slapstick style comedy mixed with physical humor to a tee. The timing is perfect and the comedy is genuinely funny. As any SNL alum would note, Farley had a special way to make everyone burst with laughter.

After seven years, that’s right, seven years, in college at Marquette University, Tommy finally graduates with graces from John “Herbie” Hancock. Herbie Hancock. Let that sink in.

Tommy returns home to Sandusky, Ohio, where he is greeted by Richard Hayden. Upon returning to his family’s auto parts factory, Tommy’s father, “Big Tom,” announces he is to be married to Beverly Burns (Bo Derek).

At their wedding, Big Tom dies and the entire company falls into a state of limbo. Being in debt because of their new brake pad plant, Tommy and Richard embark on a trip throughout the Midwest to make enough money to keep Callahan Auto afloat and save the town from dying.

To throw a twist in the plot, Beverly is actually married to Paul Barish (Rob Lowe), her “son.” The two plan to take everything Big Tom has. When he dies, he leaves the plant to Tommy, so the two try to sabotage his progress.

As said above, the plot is nothing special. It is every bit cheesy, predictable and overused, but who cares? “Tommy Boy” shines in the comedic aspect.

From Tommy’s half-witted antics to Richard’s sarcastic remarks, and of course, Farley’s fully improvised “fat guy in a little coat,” this film is a comedic gold mine.

Oh, and did I mention the airplane scene? Later on, Tommy and Richard must fly to Chicago in order to stop the sale of Callahan Auto to auto part tycoon Ray “The King” Zalinsky (Dan Aykroyd).

Dressed as flight attendants, Tommy and Richard have a “brilliant” plan to “get on the horn and throw peanuts at [the passengers].” What ensues is hysterical. Just go watch it, you won’t want to pass this up.

Other than the two leads of Farley and Spade, “Tommy Boy” holds numerous SNL comedians both on and off the screen. Famed cast member Dan Aykroyd plays his role as Ray Zalinsky very well, being cocky and charismatic.

The famed SNL writer and creator Lorne Michaels both produced and chiefly wrote “Tommy Boy.” As with his writing for SNL, the film displays Michaels’ talent for crafting hysterical moments that will stick with any and all viewers.

All in all, “Tommy Boy” feels like a really good SNL skit. You have your leads, your writers, all the laughs and a dedicated audience. “Tommy Boy” may not be the smartest or best film, but it excels in its own way.

Chris Farley will be dearly missed. It is hard to believe it has been nearly 20 years since his passing. For many who watched him and all of the SNL cast each night, it’s even harder to believe.

Generations are blessed to have such genius minds in the ways of comedy, and for the generation that fell in love with him, they will never forget him. To me, I have long loved him. So please, sit back and laugh hysterically at his best film. It is well worth it.

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Tyler Lopez, Author

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