"Tommy Boy" is one of those movies that plays like an
explosion down at the screenplay factory. You can almost picture a bewildered
office boy, his face smudged with soot, wandering through the ruins and
rescuing pages at random. Too bad they didn't mail them to the insurance
company instead of filming them.
movie is an assembly of clichés and obligatory scenes from dozens of other
movies, all are better. It has only one original idea, and that's a bad one:
The inspiration of making the hero's sidekick into, simultaneously, his buddy,
his critic and his rival.
like the part was written by three writers locked in separate rooms.
Boy" stars Chris Farley of "Saturday Night Live," the guy with
the size 23 neck, as Tommy Callahan, the dopey son of a Sandusky brake shoe
manufacturer. His father, Big Tom (Brian Dennehy), is proud of him even though
he squeaked through college in seven years, and supplies him with an office and
big responsibilities when he comes back to Ohio. Meanwhile, there are startling
developments on the domestic front, where Big Tom, a widower, is engaged to
marry the bodacious Beverly (Bo Derek).
Tommy is overjoyed, because Beverly has a son, Paul (Rob Lowe), which means
Tommy at last will have the brother he always dreamed of. Paul doubts there's
much to do in Sandusky, but Tommy proves him wrong, introducing him to the
favorite local pastime, "cow tipping," which means sneaking up on
sleeping cows and tipping them over. In other hands this could have been the
movie's only funny scene, but director Peter Segal doesn't have a clue about
comic payoffs and bungles it before ending with the desperate director's
ancient standby, as the lads fall in the mud.
plot thickens. Or does it congeal? I began ticking off the story clichés: We'd
already had (1) dumb son returns to family business and (2) unexpected
stepmother. Soon we get (3) company gets in trouble and all workers will lose
jobs, (4) it's up to the kid to save the day, (5) evil stepmother, (6) road
movie and (7) buddy picture. The last two come as Tommy hits the road in a
desperate last-minute bid to sell brake shoes, accompanied by his friend
Richard (David Spade, also from "Saturday Night Live"). Richard has
been introduced as a resentful employee who doesn't think Tommy should get such
a quick promotion. Now he becomes a sidekick, critic, rival and buddy, all
wrapped in one ungainly package.
movie tries for laughs during the road trip, I'm afraid, by having Richard's
car fall to pieces. First a deer destroys the convertible roof. Then a door
comes loose. Then the hood flies off.
drive down the highway in what's left. Those whose memories stretch all the way
back . . . back . . . back to the dim past of 1987 will remember a similar
demolished car in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," one of the many
better movies this one rips off.
one is funny in "Tommy Boy." There are no memorable lines. None of
the characters is interesting except for the enigmatic figure played by Rob
Lowe, who seems to have wandered over from "Hamlet." Judging by the
evidence on the screen, the movie got a green light before a usable screenplay
had been prepared, with everybody reassuring each other that since they were
such funny people, inspiration would overcome them. It was Forrest Gump, I believe,
who said, "Funny is as funny does."