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Tommy packs intellectual punch of Cheez Whiz

While Tommy Callahan (Chris Farley, left) and Richard Hayden (David Spade) may not reflect kindly on SNL, their moronic attempt to save the family business from the bad guys may get a laugh out of Joe Average.

Tommy Boy

Directed by Peter Segal.

Written by Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner, and Ted Wolf.

Starring Chris Farley, David Spade, Rob Lowe, Bo Derek, and Brian Dennehy.

Sony Cheri.

By Teresa Esser
Staff Reporter

Tommy Boy is the latest of a string of "Saturday Night Live Goes Commercial" attempts to turn free entertainment into a seven-dollar movie. While changing a five-minute skit into a full-length feature film may be a good idea in theory, the entertainment contained in the new film Tommy Boy is insulting to the spirit of Saturday Night Live.

If Academy Award nominee Before the Rain can be symbolized by gourmet goat cheese, high-quality French films (Blue) can be seen as gourmet brie or bleu, and genuinely exciting domestic flicks (Last of the Mohicans) can be likened to Vermont sharp cheddar, then the mass-produced crowd pleaser know as Wayne's World would resemble Velveeta. Unfortunately, Tommy Boy is the intellectual equivalent of Cheez Whiz.

That's not to say that the film will fail to please its target audience. In fact, Tommy Boy is custom-made for those customers who line up to buy nachos in our public stadiums. Indeed, the majority of the people who attended the WAAF 107.3 FM advance screening seemed to truly enjoy watching the film. "I loved it," shouted a student from Emerson College. "I mean, hey, they gave me a free tee-shirt!" He was referring to one of the ten or fifteen blue-collar grease-monkey-type work shirts that were emblazoned with the words "Tommy Boy" on the front right pocket and distributed prior to the screening of the film.

With that said, it is interesting to notice how many similarities there are between Tommy Boy, Wayne's World, and other films of this emerging genre (e.g., Dumb and Dumber). For starters, both Wayne's World and Tommy Boy employ actors from Saturday Night Live in roles resembling the ones they had on the show. Both Tommy Boy and Wayne's World use Rob Lowe as a dark, brooding background character whose evil romantic exploits bode ill for the lead. Both films take place in the Great Lakes region of the Midwest, and both contain road trip scenes where the camera focuses on actual road signs.

The plots of both films are simple enough to be summarized by a third-grade reader: Greedy businessmen try to buy the main characters' favorite possession, and our heroes must hit the road and drive really fast in order to win it back. In Wayne's World the "possession" was Wayne's basement cable-access program; in Tommy Boy it is the Callahan family Brake Pads Factory. Both films appeal to a viewer's desire to see the underdog triumph and to reward those with a healthy sense of humor.

Both Tommy Boy and Wayne's World (like Dumb and Dumber) dwell on the adventures of two numbskulls. In Tommy Boy these are moronic business heir Tommy Callahan (Chris Farley) and company man Richard Hayden (David Spade). They end up driving around in an old beater of a car and lip-sync songs that come on the radio (though Wayne and Garth's version of "Bo-hemian Rhapsody" was far better than anything that Tommy Boy can belt out). Both films contain scenes where a character must struggle desperately to get out of said automobile before vomiting. Both films seem to advocate using the media to solve all problems, both personal and financial. Both films end up with a far-fetched, meta-theatrical happy ending.

But Tommy Boy insults intellectual theatergoers by attempting to sell a reprocessed, repackaged, formulaic version of an older film for the same price as an original work. This is unfair. In the supermarket, consumers know in advance that Easy Cheese is inferior to mozzarella. However, the squirt can does provide a cheap easy way to add flavor to a saltine cracker. Consumers know that they won't be getting much flavor for their 10 or 15 cents but it's a lot cheaper than buying a real product.

With movies, however, there is no advantage to spending money on a reprocessed idea. If you're going to spend seven dollars to see something on the big screen, make sure that the product is original. If you must see Tommy Boy, save it for an all-night VCR marathon - and don't forget to bring your own crackers.