Black Sheep (1996)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Buddy Film, Slapstick  |   Release Date - Feb 2, 1996 (USA)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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As capable as Chris Farley was of going big -- and as frequently as he was asked to do so -- it's easy to forget that he could also tug at a viewer's heartstrings during his more delicate, emotional moments. Tommy Boy, his first collaboration with David Spade, got that balance right, making for an amiable underdog comedy and a surprise hit. This explains why basically the same ingredients were gathered together a year later for Black Sheep, a prime example of the theory that lightning doesn't strike twice. The big scenes are 25 percent dumber, the thoughtful scenes are 25 percent less touching, and the result is a movie that's only half as good. Farley is great at coming across as well-meaning, and the point of Black Sheep is supposed to be that he gets tripped up in his good intentions while trying to help his brother (Tim Matheson) campaign for governor. But Fred Wolf's script, his first of a smattering of undistinguished comedies, makes it difficult to keep forgiving Farley's Mike Donnelly, whose gaffes seem far more the result of his reckless foolishness than circumstantial bad luck. This culminates in a finale that's off the charts in terms of idiotic behavior, and finally gives the film its permanent separation from reality. The chemistry with Spade is not as good here either. Literally along for the ride in both films, which feature more than their share of wacky automobile shenanigans, Spade contributes less and irritates more. Black Sheep does get a funny supporting performance from the inimitable Gary Busey as an unhinged redneck veteran, but it's not enough. By following this up with Senseless, the appropriately titled Marlon Wayans vehicle that also featured Spade, director Penelope Spheeris became further distanced from the reflected glow of her work on Wayne's World.