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I Am Chris Farley – Movie Review

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I Am Chris Farley – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

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The list of comic actors gone too soon is a lengthy one and it would take a while to name them all. Chris Farley is one of the first that come to mind. Whether through his appearances on Saturday Night Live or his sadly brief film career, Farley took full advantage of the stage and brought laughs through even the most basic of situations. It’s a shame that he never got the chance to stretch too far away from the “funny fat guy” role, because he held so much potential. This documentary, directed by Brent Hodge and Derik Murray, does give a solid overview of his early life and while it does descend into happy talk most of the time, it’s a worthy tribute.

The majority of I Am Chris Farley focuses on his childhood and teenage years in Wisconsin. There’s a lot of insight into who he was and the comic ideas that grew from that part of his life. The interviews, mostly from his brothers and former pastor/rugby coach, showcase what kind of person he was and gives a general idea of why he decided to choose comedy as a career. The most valuable assets come from archival recordings of his time at The Second City. They carefully show him refining his craft before heading to SNL and they show his boundless spark and ability to take every pratfall.

It’s when the film enters the SNL era that the interviews become more focused on praise and adoration. Chris Farley certainly deserves it and it’s clear how much respect the likes of Tom Arnold, Mike Myers, David Spade and Molly Shannon had for him. The occasional stories that pop up between the tributes also provide a bit of insight into his behind-the-scenes antics. Yet, after a while, it becomes repetitive to hear what a nice person he was and how he always made the actors corpse during his performances. A bit is touched upon about his dark side and his frequent drug and alcohol abuse, but it’s very minor. It is clear I Am Chris Farley exists to celebrate him, rather than dive deeply into why he died so young. To be frank, that’s actually an okay stance to take.

While the film spends a good amount of time on Tommy Boy and even a bit on Black Sheep, this is also the point where the documentary starts to wind down. There is surprisingly no information given about projects Farley was planning before he passed away. It is well known that he was the original voice of Shrek and recorded a lot of ultimately unused dialogue for the project. It would have been a nice treat if a lot of that unreleased material was included, most of which hasn’t been heard outside of a single storyboarded scene. He was also set to star in a biopic of Fatty Arbuckle, which would have really shown his dramatic acting chops, but that similarly doesn’t get a mention. After his death, there’s not a lot of reflecting upon it, but it’s possible the filmmakers simply wanted to end the film on a happier note.

Chris Farley was certainly a talent who should not have died at such a young age. It’s unfortunate that somebody with such energy and passion for his work would eventually succumb to the drugs that also killed fellow SNLer John Belushi. This documentary, while not digging too deeply into what drove him down that path, serves as a sweet tribute to him. It’s clear this is partly a family affair and their love for him is clear in every frame. However, Chris Farley was so larger than life, you might need a three-hour documentary to truly explore his personal struggles and accomplishments and showcase precisely why he was so funny.

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Review By: Stefan Ellison

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