It is perhaps a cheap shot, and a mighty low blow, to say that the death of Chris Farley has allowed the world to maintain a positive image of him, despite his status as a one trick pony, a charismatic rotund funny man whose range consisted of yelling, falling through tables, or making sad puppy dog faces. His one-liners have maintained some fame over the years, as it's hard not to chuckle at the thought of him talking about a van down by the river, but the works he has been in have all failed the test of time, and have been exposed as the flat, unfunny films starring a funny man that they are. The least funny of Farley's few films has to be 'Black Sheep.' The political mishap comedy, now 13 years old, aims for the infantile, with a scenario that targets adults more than children.
Mike Donnelly (Farley) is a screw-up if ever there was one, and his continued ugly mistakes and mishaps are growing more and more serious as his brother Al (Tim Matheson) is running for governor of Washington. When his disasters reach an ugly head, Al and his staff have a young advisor, Steve Dodds (David Spade), take Mike up into the mountains to campaign away from the public eye, where little harm can be done. But with the election growing dirtier by the day, Mike cannot stay away from trying to help out his brother, and no amount of failures will subdue his intentions.
A wise puppet once said, "Do or do not. There is no try." This saying has great relevance when discussing 'Black Sheep,' as it tries to be comical (though not very hard), and it just doesn't succeed in this task. Ever. Comedies are supposed to be, heaven willing, funny, and that is where 'Black Sheep' falls flat on it's face, or down a ridiculously long hillside, if you would. The jokes are all clumsy, with "slap you in the face" obvious set-ups, and jokes that even repeat themselves in under five minute intervals (such as the scenes of Mike's hands/tie getting slammed stuck in a vehicle). The moment you see a bunk bed in a comedy, with a large man requesting the top bunk, the inevitable bed smash scene is sure to come sooner than later, and never you worry, fans of manufactured, unfunny comedy, it will happen.
Another serious annoyance in this film was how cheap and lazy it feels. Farley staples through his hand in one scene, and he seems to react as he's doing it, not after, making it so the viewer can see his hand, sans metal, sans blood. The crew could have easily painted a tiny silver line in his hand, but instead, we get a joke that looks like a botched wrestling spot. Also, in the headbanging sequence we are shown the car going at a rapid pace, yet when the shot goes interior, the background is hardly moving at all, and there are numerous poor cuts where the background loop jumps as well.
I suppose it would be best to reuse a comment from earlier in the review, perhaps repetition will help it sink in: manufactured, unfunny comedy. That is the easiest way to describe this entire film. "Jokes," as it were, are set up long in advance, with virtually no pay off. I could handle a long set-up to a joke if it were truly funny and worth the wait, but there is nothing to be found in this entire movie that could be described as even remotely humorous. Perhaps the joke is on us. Perhaps writer Fred Wolf (SNL, 'Strange Wilderness') and director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne's World) intentionally created as bad a film as they could, to see if anyone were really paying attention. I find it safe to say that 'Black Sheep' exists solely as a cash-in off the success of 'Tommy Boy,' bringing nothing original to the equation. Recycled stars + awful story = a joke of a film.
'Black Sheep' certainly isn't the black sheep of the May wave of Paramount catalog titles, with picture quality that actually surprised me a bit. Presented with an AVC MPEG-4 encode, the film will turn heads with its solid transfer.
Skin tones felt natural throughout, while the bright colors of the film seemed to leap off the screen. Detail levels were average for the most part, slightly disguised by the natural layer of grain, but in the early shots that take place on football fields, the sheer amount of detail was astonishing, as blades of grass were distinct and clear, ranging from bright greens to pale, dead whites, with stray hairs popping off Farley's matted head. Detail was also on high alert during the fire extinguisher gag, as minute flakes flew away from their target. There were a few dirt specks mixed in, black levels crushed a bit, detail level was occasionally inconsistent, and there were a few very short soft shots, all of which take the transfer just a notch. But overall, this transfer is nowhere near as ugly as the film it's for.
The audio for 'Black Sheep' is a bit of an unusual critter, as it is presented in a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.0 track. No, that's no typo, or even sarcasm, as your subwoofer won't step in and say howdy ever during this film. That said, this track is quite respectable, as it somewhat makes the most of a bad situation.
Dialogue is always clear and comprehensible, with nary a hiccup, making all of your favorite lines sound clean, despite their cringe inducing capacity. Surrounds had some light utilization, though when they were in use, it was quite clear, as a few sequences in the film make full use of the sound field. The downside, of course, is the use of the word "some" in the previous sentence, as many scenes should have had some bleed to the rears, but it was nowhere to be heard. There is plenty of random activity in this track, just random background noises that create a more lifelike presence. The bass, presented through the front channel, didn't actually sound as bad as one would think, as it did pack a light thud (though obviously nowhere near what it could have been). All of the above elements were also mixed quite well, as each is distinguishable and well balanced.
Paramount has not put any extras on the Blu-ray release of 'Black Sheep.'
Every family has a black sheep in it somewhere, right? Be it the non-religious child in a family deep into their faith, a criminal in a clan of police or otherwise law-abiding citizens, or even something as trivial as a cat lover in a dog loving home. Paramount has a black sheep in their family, too, as 'Black Sheep' is the opposite of what it's supposed to be: funny. Time hasn't been kind to the film. It wasn't funny when I first saw it, and it sure hasn't become any more relevant over the passing years. I want to remember Farley in a good way, but with stinkers like this, perhaps the only way to do so would be to bury every existing copy of 'Black Sheep.' Rest in peace, funnyman. Burn in hell, unfunny film.
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