Sorry, Kevin James. But you were just a replacement.
As a chubby little kid growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Chris Farley always knew that he wanted to entertain people for a living. Did he want to become an actor, or did he want to become a comedian? Chris himself never quite knew, that is, until he started taking stage-acting lessons at a young age and realized that his passion was most definitely making people laugh and feel happy. As Chris began to tune his craft a bit more, then came the notoriety that even landed him a job on the most coveted comedy show ever, SNL. On this platform, every Saturday night, for millions and millions of people, Chris was able to entertain the heck out of anyone who cared to watch him – sometimes, he pushed himself far beyond his own reach. As time went on though, all of this fame, fortune, fun and adoration from those around him, came at a price that Chris wasn’t able to handle and it ended up taking his life at the age of 33.
There’s a lot of people that I know and talk to that aren’t quite sure what to make of Chris Farley. Was he the comedic legend that everybody makes him out to be? Or, simply put, was he just another chunky guy that liked to yell loud, fall down, and point at his own gut with a winning-smile? Cause so often know, we see a lot more of the later be displayed and it almost seems like rather than moving beyond those sort of stale jokes, Farley himself acted on them once again and brought them back to the mainstream. Even if they never went away, Chris Farley, for better as well as for worse, made “the fat guy” jokes funny again and it’s something we’re going to be forced to live with until the end of time.
Now, like I asked before, was Chris Farley a comedic legend?
Whatever the answer may be, depending on the type of person you are, it doesn’t matter. All personal feelings aside, I Am Chris Farley seems perfectly content with approaching Farley’s own life and career as if it were one big party the whole way through, filled with all sorts of drugs, sex, booze, fun times, celebrities, and smiling faces (all looking at him, of course). And in this sense of the documentary, it’s where director Brent Hodge really excels; not only is it impressive that Hodge was able to nail such celebrities like Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, David Spade, and Lorne Michaels to talk about Farley, but he’s actually able to bring a lot more out of them than just, “Yeah, he was a funny guy,” and leaving it at that.
Instead, each one sheds light on how much they loved being around Chris and what it meant to them that he was making them happy, and busting his ass to do so each and every opportunity he got. While this may sound incredibly self-serving, it turns out it’s not; because Farley himself was such an entertainer and attention-whore, he loved it when he made those around him happy and laugh. This of course paints Farley in a positive light that makes it seem like who we got on the screen, was exactly who’d we get off the screen – another idea that the movie brings up.
That Chris Farley was, through and through, without any commercial interruptions, an entertainer, makes him all the more sympathetic. He truly cared about entertaining others and while his most-known buddies still work today and couldn’t care to do much of that anymore (aka, David Spade, Rob Schneider, and of course, Adam Sandler), it’s bittersweet to know that Farley never wanted to dumb himself down for anyone, or anywhere. The movie even makes a mention of how Black Sheep (the Spade-Farley movie that came out after Tommy Boy), may have been a forgettable piece of garbage, but was one that Farley tried his hardest in that even when it bombed, he still tried to bounce back.
Of course, he bounced back with Beverly Hills Ninja, but hey, they can’t all be winners, now can they!
But while all of the nostalgic stories of whimsy about Farley may be fun to listen to and all, there’s a part of this movie that feels like it’s missing. For anybody who’s familiar with Farley and his life, they’ll know that his later years were filled with all sorts of debauchery and sadness, most of which that this movie does shed a light on, however, not to the fullest extent that seems necessary. In order to paint a full portrait of a subject, a documentary should show you how screwed-up one’s life was before they passed away, rather than tell you through narration or text that pops up on the screen.
Hodge himself seems as if he was too enamored with Farley’s life when he was alive, well and making all sorts of people happy, that he forgets about the darkness that lurked within him. Now, I wasn’t expecting this to be some sort of hatchet job that makes Farley out to be like some sort of selfish d-bag, but there is something to be said for a movie that talks about the fact that Farley overdosed on drugs, yet, hardly alludes to the fact of how it makes those people feel today. To me, there feels like a necessary meat to this story that’s missing and almost makes it seem like Hodge, in a way to not push any sort of agenda too hard, didn’t decide to dig any further than what was presented to him through these tales of yesteryear with these many famous people.
Which isn’t all that bad, because even though Farley himself would have wanted the audience to be entertained, there’s still something to be said for a documentary that doesn’t paint a full-picture of its subject, especially when the subject died in such a shocking, tragic way.
But hey, there’s always the narrative biopic!
Consensus: The interviews that I Am Chris Farley is able to get, help make the documentary float on by in a pleasant, entertaining way, even if it does feel like there isn’t much room to go any further than just the happy times.
6.5 / 10