Critic's Corner

Richard Leiby - Style section,
"Chris Farley salvages this tacky romp with David Spade."


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‘Black Sheep’

As the well-meaning little brother of a gubernatorial candidate, Chris Farley is less a black sheep than a raging bull in a political china shop, wrecking the final days of the campaign with the abandon of Billy Carter and Roger Clinton combined. The embarrassed would-be governor appoints the supercilious David Spade to be his brother's keeper, but the Bozo eruptions continue—thanks in part to the sitting governor's dirty tricks.

Farley is exiled to a cabin in the far reaches of Washington state, where he and Spade battle bats and snakes and locals sorely in need of orthodontia. -- Richard Leiby Rated PG-13


Director: Penelope Spheeris
Cast: Chris Farley; David Spade; Tim Matheson; Christine Ebersole; Gary Busey; Grant Heslov; Timothy Carhart; Bruce McGill
Running Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes





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‘Black Sheep’: Good and Baa-d

By Richard Leiby
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 03, 1996

He's fat, he's funny, he's Chris Farley—and he's the best thing about "Black Sheep," the latest in a long line of downhill vehicles for "Saturday Night Live" cast members. Just as Farley was able to rescue the lamest of "SNL" skits—recall the harrowing buffoonery of his motivational speaker Matt Foley—so does he salvage this tacky romp with David Spade, who looks more bored than usual.

They're certainly no Aykroyd and Belushi, or even Myers and Carvey, but Farley and Spade manage to wring humor from a series of juvenile setups and predictable pratfalls. The belly laughs come easy when Farley's tumbling down a mountain or being dragged behind a car by his necktie. Director Penelope Spheeris ("Wayne's World") keeps up a head-banging pace, barreling past Spade's flat jokes and Farley's limited character range.

As the well-meaning little brother of a gubernatorial candidate, Farley is less a black sheep than a raging bull in a political china shop, wrecking the final days of the campaign with the abandon of Billy Carter and Roger Clinton combined. The embarrassed would-be governor (Tim Matheson) appoints the supercilious Spade to be his brother's keeper, but the Bozo eruptions continue—thanks in part to the sitting governor's dirty tricks.

The script devolves cartoonishly when Farley is exiled to a cabin in the far reaches of Washington state, where he and Spade battle bats and snakes and locals sorely in need of orthodontia. As the human wrecking ball continues his mayhem, Spade seems content to play the furniture. Though this genre of dumbed-down comedy represents a return to the slapstick of silent film, those long-ago performances were far more nuanced. In Farley and Spade's Keystone Kops routine, they have to rely on laughing gas—literally, nitrous oxide seeps into their hijacked police car—to sustain the gag.

If you're not convinced yet that Hollywood is dedicated to poisoning young minds, the overdose of drug high jinks in "Black Sheep" will have you voting the family-values ticket for sure. The level of sexual crudity and profanity is also ratcheted quite high for a PG-13. The snow-day matinee I attended was overflowing with pre-teen boys, with very few parental guides in sight. Of course, the kids loved it—this is a film whose writers have expertly honed the toilet humor of 10- to-12-year-old boys.

More mature viewers will get their jollies too. Fortunately, Farley is hilarious enough—like when he explodes into the blown-gasket persona of that trouser-tugging guy who's living in a VAN, down by the RIVER—that we can indulge the script's sins.

Black Sheep is rated PG-13 for wanton sexual wisecracks and dirty words.

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