Review: I Am Chris Farley
I Am Chris Farley is a documentary by Brent Hodge (A Brony Tale) and Derik Murray (Facing Ali), exploring the backstory of the titular comedian’s rise to prominence, and the unique strengths inhibited by the star that made him the life of the party both on-screen and off-screen.
Beginning with his early life in Madison, Wisconsin, the filmmakers make it abundantly clear that Farley had an innate sense of showmanship, and a desire to make others laugh. As he began to get involved in improv during his university days, Farley would make his first steps towards his eventual career, eventually finding himself as a member of Chicago’s Second City comedy troupe, where he would originate many characters that would be seen by millions on Saturday Night Live only years later.
Filled with interviews by Farley’s contemporaries from SNL, including David Spade, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Molly Shannon, Bob Odenkirk, and Lorne Michaels, it is remarked continually that the man had a knack for physical comedy, and used his body for larger than life feats. Archival footage from his best known skits, including motivational speaker Matt Foley, Bennett Brauer, Da Bears, and Gap Girls. Even if you’re well versed in the 90s era of the sketch comedy show, it’s hard not to crack a smile during these segments.
In addition, moments from Farley’s short-lived film career are highlighted, consisting of films produced by Lorne Michaels such as Tommy Boy and Black Sheep among others. The initial failure of Tommy Boy is remarked upon, and how it greatly affected Farley in his personal life, though the reputation it has amassed since then is nothing short of amazing, easily among the best known outings for SNL stars to date.
While Hodge and Murray’s doc is enjoyable at moments, a sense of complication comes into play, in the sense that it mainly strays away from the darker portion of Farley’s life, and his eventual drug overdose in 1997. These moments only come into play towards the end, and its very clear that the interviewees are not comfortable with discussing this aspect. In one particular moment, Bob Odenkirk hits the nail on the head, stating bluntly: It’s just rare that a person has that much joy and brings that much happiness to everyone around them. But with Chris, there’s a limit to how wonderful it is to me, and that limit is when you kill yourself with drugs and alcohol. You know, that’s where it stops being so f***ing magical.”
While not taking this part of Chris Farley into focus for obvious reasons, I Am Chris Farley still captures the influence and importance of the comedian’s stature. If you fancy yourself a comedy or SNL nerds, its well worth a watch, and may even lead to you checking out some classic sketch comedy in the process.