REVIEW: I Am Chris Farley

A documentary that keeps the gloves on for a tale of a much-loved comedian who was lost to drugs at an early age....

Everyone from my generation is well-aware of Chris Farley and what he meant to comedy. As a fan, Chris’ talent always seemed to be turned-on at full volume. That perspective is amplified in I Am Chris Farley, a documentary about the gone-too-early comedian that takes you on a journey through his life from middle child to comedy legend. It’s obviously made with love and admiration for Chris, which becomes further evident in the credits when you realize Kevin Farley, Chris’ brother, was involved as both interviewee and executive producer. This is a love story for Chris Farley, and that’s okay with me.

The film takes time explaining the lesser-known facts about Chris. His foray into high school football. When his college lacked football, he turned to rugby (a sport he’d never played) just to be part of a team. It paints a picture, through old-friends and family, that Chris’ first real drug was never being alone. A mixture of archived footage, sometimes oddly used to try to fill gaps based on a lack of actual footage for the event (discussions about his college years are inter-spliced with the first five minutes of Tommy Boy where he just happened to play a college frat guy). It’s not that this is done poorly, it’s just done out of necessity and maybe could have been done differently.

We’re all aware of some of Chris’ famous Saturday Night Live sketches, especially Motivational Speaker Matt Foley. A few times, including here, the documentary slows down to take you through the piece, step-by-step, with everyone involved. No matter how many times you’ve seen it and the laughter has worn off, hearing his close friends and scene-mates discuss it brings out bursts of laughter which solidifies the admiration that everyone has for this lovable bear.

While it’s touched up in the book Live From New York, this is the first time that I can remember, on camera, of Lorne Michaels specifically addressing his tactics of helping Farley deal with his addictions during his SNL years. Famously, Lorne assisted in taking him off the show to get him into rehab knowing well that Chris loved doing the show and would clean-up just to return to the show he wanted to be on above anything else in his life. As it goes, drugs and alcohol were a hook that kept him away from what he really wanted and not vice-versa.

As I Am Chris Farley is clearly story told of nothing but love and fond memories, the torrid tales are kept to a minimum. Rather than address it clearly, the interview subjects turn more somber, speak in code and skirt around talking about the darkness of Chris’ life off camera. It’s not a requirement necessarily, but something that was worth addressing for a movie about a guy who “left us too soon.”

There are other trimmed portions from the narrative, including delving into his friendship and work partnership with fellow SNL cast member David Spade who, together, formed a duo comparable to comedy team legends of the past. Instead, the issue is avoided.

For anyone that loved Chris Farley this movie is a sometimes funny, sometimes emotional watch that’s worth seeing if nothing but for reliving some of our fondest moments and getting a glimpse into others we didn’t really know about.

“I Am Chris Farley” premieres August 10th, 2015 on Spike TV

I Am Chris Farley
I Am Chris Farley
The Good
  • Great interviews
  • Emotional (bring tissues)
The Bad
  • Glazed over the darker points
  • Overall

Pop culture geek, tech enthusiast, co-host of the Pop Center Podcast and on-air personality on SiriusXM.
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