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6 Degrees Entertainment

'Black Sheep [Blu-ray]'
(Chris Farley, David Spade, et al / Blu ray / PG-13 / (1996) 2009 / Paramount)

Overview: Chris Farley plays the disaster-prone brother of a gubernatorial candidate in Washington State. Though he is well meaning, the havoc he creates on the campaign trail is drawing press attention, so a snotty aide (David Spade) to the politician is dispatched to keep the big lug under control.

DVD Verdict: "Black Sheep" is merely a retooling of "Tommy Boy," but in cases like this, it doesn't matter. It was made purely for laughs, not to make a statement or impress with a display of great scriptwriting. "Tommy Boy" has a far superior script, and despite several flaws in the screenplay and continuity, it was a genuinely good movie, on every level. This one was simply made for a quick buck, and some laughs. It piggy-backed on the other's success.

First, let me state the obvious: The Spade-Farley team was right up there with all the great comedy teams of the ages. The physical differences, as well as everything else. Spade - short and little, caustic wit, a mean streak, really snarky: Farley - big, obese, low-brow approach (though he himself was bright, he played stupid very well), affable and friendly, a loose cannon. Look at the others - Laurel and Hardy, Abbot and Costello, Aykroyd and Belushi and so on. They fit the template. But it ended way too soon. Farley left us way too soon, and he was one of the funniest human beings of all time. And Spade just added to it.

"Black Sheep" has a fairly simple premise: Mike Donnelly (Farley) is the underachieving train-wreck brother of Al Donnelly, a rare person. He is an actual honest politician. (The writers of this movie wisely avoided party politics; it's up to the viewer to decide who is the conservative and who is the liberal. They avoided this altogether. That would have been a mistake which would have nose-dived this picture right into the ground.) But Mike wants to help his brother win the election, no matter what he has to do to get this done. The story pairs him with David Spade, on a series of misadventures which are genuinely funny, especially as executed by these two comic geniuses.

The opening scene is proof that sometimes pure nonsense, depicted with no explanation whatsoever, can leave one rolling with laughter. Farley is driving the campaign vehicle through town, making announcements to the public about Al Donnelly's candidacy for governer, but for some completely unknown reason, all the unleashed dogs in town are following the truck, barking as if they were on a wild pack's hunt. "...WHAT'S WITH THESE DOGS?!..." He can't shake them, and ultimately wrecks the truck, and suddenly, the dogs just cool it. There's no back story, no explanation, but it is hilarious nonetheless.

Throughout, Farley's "Mike" character suffers mishap after mishap, some of which could result in serious bodily injuries, and where I don't much care for slapstick, it's impossible to not laugh at it all. And Farley often did his own stunts as well. It's amazing, what he put himself through, willingly, to make his audience laugh. [AH] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.