Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition (1995)

Jesse Hassenger

It seems odd that this well-executed formula buddy comedy would have such a tortured birthing process.

Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition

Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Chris Farley, David Spade, Rob Lowe, Brian Dennehy, Julie Warner
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Paramount
First date: 1995
US DVD Release Date: 2005-08-30
Amazon affiliate

Do you sense an impending panic on the part of the DVD production machine formerly known as Hollywood? DVD sales for 2005 have not met expectations. This shouldn't be unexpected, as the number of older titles coming to DVD had to taper off, just as the replacement of records and tapes with compact discs resulted in years of unrealistic record-industry growth. But still, studios trying to ride the wave of collectors who want the "best" edition of everything have become more re-release-mad than ever.

Which leads us to Tommy Boy: Holy Schnike Edition. I don't begrudge Tommy Boy, the 1995 Chris Farley comedy, another go at the format, as, like many Paramount titles, its original release was bare-bones (other Paramount back titles coming out with cutely-titled special editions include Clueless and Airplane!). But the main purpose of the special features here isn't to enhance the pleasantly simple Tommy Boy experience. It's to spill over onto a second disc, thus further differentiating it from the previous release.

These extra features also reveal that no small amount of luck is involved in the successful Saturday Night Live film. On a DVD like, say, Anchorman, you can see piles of alternate versions of scenes, with actors launching into different tangents and riffs; some also offer discarded subplots, with their own running gags and inspired performances. In terms of sheer numbers, Tommy Boy is right up there with its extra footage: 27 extended, alternate, or deleted scenes, as well as separate gag reel. But despite the occasional amusing moment (the best is a quick sequence in which Farley tumbles through a lot of parked cars, cut after being deemed too naked an emulation of John Belushi, Farley's idol), this is a sea of rough, listless material. Farley and costar David Spade don't cut loose with inspired adlibs, physical or verbal.

Tommy Boy delivers slapstick simplicity: Tommy Callahan (Farley), the screw-up son of an auto parts magnate, goes on an odd-couple road trip with his dad's acerbic right-hand man Richard (David Spade), to save the family business. The visual comedy is firmly rooted in their big guy/small guy dynamic. In "Tommy Boy: Behind the Laughter," a 30-minute making-of featurette, director Peter Segal reveals that the script was rewritten by SNL writer Fred Wolf, who tailored it during production for Farley and Spade's sensibilities; the story originally followed Tommy's relationship with his new stepbrother, a villain in the finished film, played with amusing scuzziness by Rob Lowe.

It seems odd that this well-executed formula buddy comedy would have such a tortured birthing process. Spade says it was shot concurrently with the 1994-95 season of SNL, with the stars flying between New York and Toronto several times a week. This provides a brief, tantalizing window into potential reasons for the creative stall at SNL in the mid-'90s; a more comprehensive Spade-Farley piece might've included greater context.

There's slightly more behind-the-scenes detail in "Stories from the Side of the Road," a set of interviews with the cast and crew on the genesis of several modest Tommy Boy set pieces. The scenes, such as Farley's manic sales pitch that quickly devolves into the destruction of a potential client's toy cars, are often very funny, but an entire featurette devoted to them feels like too much ado about nothing too complicated.

These lightweight features do provide a venue for everyone's genuinely fond memories of the production Segal, who has since moved on to more profitable (though mostly less amusing) comedies, is particularly engaged, in the featurettes as well as his feature-length commentary. He mentions Tommy Boy as a career highlight for the late Farley, implicitly acknowledging that his following vehicles (Black Sheep, also with Spade; Beverly Hills Ninja) aren't very good, and notes that Farley (who died of a drug overdose in 1997) was clean, sober, and committed during filming.

So in the end, maybe some undue attention to the intricacies of Tommy Boy isn't such a bad thing. The film is sweet-natured if clichéd, showcasing what effective guidance achieved for the team of Farley and Spade, two comics who often seem adrift in their separate vehicles. So, watch out for that Beverly Hills Ninja two-disc commemorative edition, or a Dickie Roberts director's cut.






"I'm an Audience Member, Playing This Music for Us": An Interview With Keller Williams

Veteran musician Keller Williams discusses his special relationship with the Keels, their third album together, Speed, and what he learned from following the Grateful Dead.


Shintaro Kago's 'Dementia 21' Showcases Surrealist Manga

As much as I admire Shintaro Kago's oddness as a writer, his artistic pen is even sharper (but not without problems) as evident in Dementia 21.


Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Proclaim 'Jazz Is Dead!' Long Live Jazz!

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their live collaborative efforts with jazz veterans to recorded life with Jazz Is Dead 001, a taste of more music to come.


"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.


Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.


'Harmony' Is About As Bill Frisell As a Bill Frisell Recording Can Be

Bill Frisell's debut on Blue Note Records is a gentle recording featuring a few oddball gems, particularly when he digs into the standard repertoire with Petra Haden's voice out front.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 4, James Chance to the Pop Group

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part four with Talking Heads, the Fall, Devo and more.


Raye Zaragoza's "Fight Like a Girl" Shatters the Idea of What Women Can and Can't Do (premiere)

Singer-songwriter and activist Raye Zaragoza's new single, "Fight Like a Girl", is an empowering anthem for intersectional feminism, encouraging resilience amongst all women.


VickiKristinaBarcelona Celebrate Tom Waits on "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (premiere)

VickiKristinaBarcelona celebrate the singular world of Tom Waits their upcoming debut, Pawn Shop Radio. Hear "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" ahead of tomorrow's single release.


'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.