Decision 2016! Two Cents Revisits BLACK SHEEP (1996)

 

Two Cents
Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick

Did you get a chance to watch along with us this week? Want to recommend a great (or not so great) film for the whole gang to cover? Comment below or post on our Facebook or hit us up on Twitter!

We’ve made it this far, folks – almost done with this abomination of a campaign season! to tie into our current election, we decided to dedicate November to a handful of films with political or election themes. To cleanse the palate a bit of all these weeks of horror (meaning the election, but also our Halloween series), we’re kicking things off with the comedy Black Sheep, starring the duo of Chris Farley and David Spade, following up their commercial success with Tommy Boy.

In Black Sheep, Farley plays Mike Donnelly, the sweet but imbecilic brother of a gubernatorial candidate in a tight race against a ruthless incumbent. Despite his intentions to help his brother, his frequent public mishaps only serve to do the opposite, splashing newspapers with embarrassing headlines. Snarky Steve Dodds (David Spade) takes on the job of babysitting Mike and keeping him out of trouble for the duration of the campaign. Gary Busey is also involved somehow. Directed by the great Penelope Spheeris, Black Sheep would prove to be the duo’s final picture together, as the hard-living Farley’s life was cut short in December of 1997.

Does Black Sheep say anything meaningful in the political sphere? Does it capture the greatness of Spheeris’s Wayne’s World films, or add anything to the legacy of Farley and Spade as a comedic duo? Or it just another dumb broad-strokes 90s comedy? Let’s see what the Two Cents squad thought in this 20-year revisit.

Next Week’s Pick:

Continuing on our short trek through political films, we follow up with something new: the second sequel of the Purge action-horror series, The Purge: Election Year. The series has quickly carved a place in the cinematic landscape with its high concept and increasingly political social criticism that taps into a very real anger at modern injustice. The film has just landed on home video, so it should be easy enough to find a copy and join us! Even if you haven’t seen the prior two films, they’re episodic and only loosely connected – you can jump right in!

11/10 – The Purge: Election YearDigital Rental at Amazon
11/17 – The CandidateStreaming on Amazon Prime Video
11/24 – BulworthStreaming on Netflix

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co!

Our Guest

Trey Lawson:I’m not much of a fan of the 90s movies featuring SNL cast members (the, ahem, “excellent” Wayne’s World movies excepted of course). But Chris Farley and David Spade in particular seem ill-suited to feature-length films. I appreciate their work in short sketches, but Black Sheep is just not very funny. The main problem is that for a film set in and around a political campaign, it doesn’t have enough teeth to do anything like actual political satire. The politics then is mostly just backdrop for Farley to do his “loveable yet immature screw-up” routine and Spade to snark along beside him. The result is a series of vignettes which mostly showcase what is by this point very familiar shtick. When you get right down to it, Black Sheep is essentially Tommy Boy redone with politics instead of the family business. In addition, it’s crass, crude, and sometimes even a little mean. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t appreciate slapstick – but the gags in this film are tired and often fall flat. The cinematography and editing are lackluster at best, and the plot is propelled almost entirely through contrivances. Even if you’re a Farley/Spade fan, this just isn’t much fun to watch. (@T_Lawson)

The Team

Justin:When I was in high school, I was never one of those mallrat kids but it just so happened I was hitting up our local Sam Goody on a day where some lady with a clipboard was stopping people, mostly young people, to discuss something. Intrigued, I sauntered up and asked her what kinda of survey she was doing. She proceeded to offer me tickets to a screening of a yet untitled comedy film that she described as a “spiritual sequel” to Tommy Boy. I was sold immediately.

Fast forward through the rest of high school, my college years, a wife, and two kids… and this movie remains a wonderfully fun and entertaining ride. I have watched it several times since that first time and I’ve enjoyed it as much or more every single time.

In this election season, there is value added in a rewatch, as we get to see some over the top political espionage and the ills of dirty politicians. And, with that, this may have been my favorite viewing to date.

Comedy gold. Hats off to the late great Chris Farley. And, remember to vote Donnelly next Tuesday. (@thepaintedman)

Austin:I was never a huge fan of this movie in the first place, but this was kind of a rough rewatch.

For a politically themed movie, there’s very little bite. This feels a bit like Spheeris backing off a bit and doing a generic studio picture, though her direction is more evident in the “Rock The Vote” segment when she sneaks in an obligatory rock concert.

The only way to approach Black Sheep is to take it on its own terms – as a silly, mindless, over-the-top comedy. It falls apart under any other scrutiny. As an example, the opening disaster sequence in which Chris Farley accidentally careens his campaign van through the town, crashing into cars and buildings, makes absolutely no sense. All he needed to do has hit the brakes.

But, as silly and harmless fun, it mostly works. The best aspect, as with Tommy Boy, is the terrific chemistry between Farley’s idiotic goofball and Spade’s sarcastic straight man. They play off each other really well and arguably did their best work together. (@VforVashaw)

Brendan: Oof. I expected Black Sheep to be an easy lay-up from a comedy team that seemed almost can’t miss: Farley’s overgrown kid sweetness, Spade’s smarm, and the guiding hand of Penelope Spheeris who proved herself pitch-perfect at balancing this sort of comedy duo with the still-classic Wayne’s World.

But Black Sheep… oof.

From the start, it’s hard to shake the sense that no one gave a shit on this one. Farley and Spade played characters in Tommy Boy, broad characters, yeah, but with some shades and motivation. In Black Sheep, they’re both just blasting their schtick as loudly as possible at all times (Chris Farley screams something like 90% of his lines which gets really old, really quickly). Everyone is seemingly on autopilot (this is born out by reading behind-the-scenes stories).

And Spheeris, who did such strong work with Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, totally flubs the dynamic here. The Farley and Spade comedic double act would necessitate them being together, but Black Sheep keeps fucking splitting up their characters. So you just have unadulterated Farley freakouts and uncut Spade nastiness, occurring in different sections of the movie without anything actually funny to bounce off of.

The real shame of it is that Black Sheep is bad, but in an inoffensive way. If Farley had lived, this film would have been quietly forgotten the way so many comedians have lackluster studio vehicles that fade away. But instead, Farley fans are stuck with Black Sheep as one of the meager few films that showcases his abilities. And that’s a rotten shame. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Trailer

Did you all get a chance to watch along with us? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook!

 

Get it at Amazon:
Black Sheep (1996) – [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
the author

Austin Vashaw is a technology and new media professional in Overland Park, KS (a Kansas City 'burb). Film yakker, wisecracker, tact lacker, and BK Stacker snacker; lover of photography, Victorian literature, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. @VforVashaw | letterboxd.com/VforVashaw