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Josh Reviews I Am Chris Farley

September 10th, 2015

After watching Tig (the lovely documentary about comedian Tig Notaro that I just reviewed), it was fun to move on to another documentary about a talented comedian, albeit one who died far too young.

Saturday Night Live: The Best of Chris Farley

I am Chris Farley, directed by Brent Hodge & Derik Murray, is a loving look back at the too-short life of the incredibly talented Chris Farley.  The film covers a lot of ground, chronicling Chris’ childhood and how he got the bug for performing, his time at Second City (the famous Chicago-based improv group), his rise to super-stardom as a cast-member on Saturday Night Live, his forays into movies (mostly accompanied by David Spade) and, of course, his untimely death.

I felt the tone of this documentary was just exactly right.  There’s no question that this is a loving look back at the life of Chris Farley, and the film is generally light and very, very funny.  We get a lot of sweet and funny reminiscences about Chris from so many of the people who loved him, and a liberal dose of actual clips of Chris performing which are, of course, hysterical.  The film doesn’t shy away from covering the darker sides of Chris’ life.  That wouldn’t have been honest had they glossed over those aspects of his life.  But the filmmakers never allow those elements of Chris Farley’s story to consume the film.

I was impressed by the enormous array of people interviewed for the film.  The filmmakers are to be commended for finding people from all areas of Chris’ life.  We hear from everyone one could expect or hope to hear from, such as David Spade, of course, and many other SNL stars.  The film gives a lot of time to Chris’ brother, Kevin Farley, allowing him in many ways to provide the backbone of the film’s narrative of Chris’ life.  But we hear from so many other people, too!  There are some really deep cuts here.  We hear from Chris’ high school drama teacher, for goodness sake! The result is a film that feels very thorough in its look back at Chris’ life.

It’s very sweet to see, as one watches the film, just how many people loved Chris and seem so happy to talk about him and to share their stories of him.  The film is filled with great stories.  The are some obvious choices — of course, there had to be some discussion of the “Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker” SNL sketch — and also so many other great anecdotes that I’d never heard.  (And in one of my favorite moments in the film, we get to hear from the actual Matt Foley!!  Who knew that Chris had used the name of one of his actual buddies for that sketch character!)

I wouldn’t say there’s anything revelatory in this film.  But if you’re a fan of Chris Farley, this is a terrific piece of work, a sweet and very entertaining look back at the life of this ferociously talented performer whose life ended far too soon.

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