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Black Sheep

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rated: PG-13 (For crude language and humor, drug-related material and sexual innuendo)

Running Time: 86 minutes

Starring: Chris Farley, David Spade, Tim Matheson, Chrstine Eversole and Gary Busey

Written by: Fred Wolf

Directed by: Penelope Spheeris

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: None

Specs: 1.85:1 namorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.0, English Dolby Surround, French Stereo, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selections (17 Scenes)

Released: July 16th, 2002

 

 

"Oh Spade, why did you leave Farley in charge of the bees?" ~Homer Simpson

 

It may not have "Saturday Night Live" sketch characters, but you might as well call "Black Sheep" a "Saturday Night Live" movie. It's directed by Penelope Spheeris, (who directed the first and excellent Wayne's World flick); it was written by Fred Wolf, who used to write on "Saturday Night Live"; Lorne Michaels produced and David Spade and Chris Farley team up again to star. Yeah... it's quite SNL-ish alright. That's a kiss of death right there, especially since this one was made in the era when all "Saturday Night Live" films sucked: "Coneheads" wasn't too long ago, but "Superstar," "The Ladies Man" and "A Night At The Roxbury" were just around the corner. And you guessed it: "Black Comedy" is your substandard, stupid comedy.

The plotline setup is predictable and sets the stage for a lot of laughs. Al Donnelly (Tim Matheson) is running for Washington State governor. Donnelly is an honest, hard working guy who's really looking to capture the votes. The problem is he can't leave his family out of it, namely his stupid, wacky and crazy brother Mike (Chris Farley, of course!) who seems to be ruining Al's image and ruining his campaigning.

Al needs to win, obviously, so an aide on the campaign trail named Steve Dodds (David Spade) is hired to watch over Mike. This all leads to your usual, over-the-top hijinks. But hey, that plot comes into play when Dodds discovers that the current governor (Christine Ebersole), who's a crook, is out to smear the Donnelys. Of course, more wackiness ensues with all of that in your perfectly stitched up ending.

I like stupid-funny movies, but "Black Sheep" really can't cut it. The problem with the movie so much of it is incredibly formulatic, as you've seen most of the jokes - or heard them - somewhere else before. This is a movie that critics hate, film lovers hate but mainstream audiences love since it has a level of comedy a lot of them can relate to and they think is simply genius, everything is spelled out for them with the shit villian and affable supporting characters, unoriginal music that tells you how to feel, a plot that's more like a cardboard standadee than a cardboard box you store stuff in and finally, a pinch of family sentimentality. People like that, and I respect that, but I still find it annoying since so much is built into it. A movie like "Black Sheep" was made more for commercial reasons than any more serious reasons.

So yes, if you like "Saturday Night Live" movies you'll feel perfectly at home with the zany slapstick of "Black Sheep." Like I said, I'm all for dumb movies, but this movie boils down to a pathetic science. Fred Wolf's screenplay is just plain inane with its terrible jokes, routine comedy and sucky, biting and laughable sentimentality. The direction from Penelope Spheeris is nothing to go nuts about either. Spheeris had great comic direction for "Wayne's World," but here it seems like a forced crap job that lacks any spunk or originality "Wayne's World" had. It's a shame, really.

If there's one thing I won't fault, it's the performances. They're perfect for the material, and I guess it makes the movie somewhat watchable. I still find it such a shame, nearly five years later, the great comedic talent that is Chris Farley is no longer with us due to depression, alcohol and drugs. His love of performing and excellent energy is shown in the film, and he's quite the comedic madman here which is pretty fun. Of course, David Spade is fun as the wiseass straight man and shares great chemistry with his SNL co-star. Supporting roles are nicely done from that crazy Gary Busey, Christine Ebersole and Tim Matheson.

I think you get the idea of how I feel about this movie, so I won't say anything else but this: AVOID (unless you're a die-hard fan of SNL-based flicks and need to memorize them all).

 

The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen is actually quite nice. Except for its somewhat shifty print which needs a bit more stabilization, the image is incredibly sharp and really pops right off the screen. Fleshtones are excellent and realistic, while color saturation and detail is pretty amazing. It's very vibrant and quite bright, and it all just looks quite good (too bad the movie isn't at this level). On the small downsides, there are a decent deal of blemishes, scratches, pieces of dirt and shimmering. Still, it's pretty dang pristine.

 

"Black Sheep" features a English Dolby Digital 5.0 track that is very good. While I bet a .1 LFE could have given some extra life to some of the scenes, the surround usage is nicely done and brought out. Be it the opening wreckage scene, the fire scenes, crowd noises, cameras going off and the more action oriented scenes. Dialogue is very clear and clean, and the William Ross score sounds fine. The mix is well balanced. English subtitles and English closed captions, as well as a French stereo track and English Dolby Surround track are included.

 

I saw the trailer for this film a few times prior to its opening, but it's not here on the disc and there's nothing else. Perhaps Spheeris didn't want to record a commentary.

 

No extras, good presentation and just your run of the mill, crap "Saturday Night Live" movie. What else is there to say? "Black Sheep" fans will be disappointed that this release has no supplements, but if you want it, it's now on DVD.