I watched this movie well over thirty times when I was in middle school. Because of this I was a bit worried the humor might be too sexist or something. Fortunately it wasn’t the case at all. I still laughed through most of the movie.
Before watching it with Chris, the most exposure I had to Tommy Boy was its trailer on a VHS I had growing up. Even from that all I remember is Chris Farley getting sprayed with gasoline and him mimicking Darth Vader’s voice in a fan. Despite growing up in the ’90s I managed to miss most of the Chris Farley-David Spade craze. I thought Chris Farley was sad because everyone just seemed to make fun of him and I thought David Spade was mean because he just seemed to make fun of everyone. Plus I’m pretty sure my mom would have dropped dead before seeing a movie starring Chris Farley.
A lot of the jokes that seem to be classics, according to Chris, were totally new to me and were therefore super funny. I braced myself for a lot of gross-out humor but was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of physical comedy but not a lot of super gross shit. One of the funniest scenes was when Tommy (Farley) puts on Richard’s too-small blazer to make him laugh, swinging his arms and repeating “Fat guy in a little coat.” I know now it’s a famous scene but it just cracked me the fuck up. I was also pleasantly surprised with Tommy’s character in general. He managed to be pathetic enough to be funny without being too pathetic to laugh at. And I liked that he wasn’t mean at all – I expected a lot of the dialogue to be Tommy and Richard insulting each other. But Tommy’s actually really nice and he makes you want to see him do sorta well, at least.
A weird misstep to me though was the whole stepmother subplot. Tommy comes home from college to find that his father, Tom (Brian Dennehy) has proposed to a new woman named Beverly (Bo Derek) who has an adult son, Paul (Rob Lowe). Paul is a creep from the start and Tom is just as nice as Tommy so you know they’re setting you up for something to be off about the relationship. Tom and Beverly get married as planned but while singing at the reception Tom has a heart attack and dies. Tom’s death sets off the chain of events that the movie revolves around – mainly Tommy and Richard going on a cross-country sales trip to save the family business. But it also reveals the truth about Beverly and Paul: Beverly planned to divorce Tom and take all his money (somehow). But since Tom died, they really just need to prevent Tommy from saving the company so they can sell what Tom left them of the company. Oh and also, Beverly and Paul are lovers – not mother and son. Sooo, why was this weird relationship included? It feels like when the movie was first written, Tom didn’t die and Beverly did divorce him, but died in the re-write so they just had Beverly acknowledge that now her job was easier. It was just so weird and clunky and I definitely did not expect the grossest thing about a Chris Farley movie to be Bo Derek and Rob Lowe making out.
Tommy Boy isn’t an intellectual giant of a movie, but that’s okay. It’s just funny.