This new documentary from Brent Hodge and Derik Murray looks at the life and career of comedian Farley, who rose to fame on Saturday Night Live before dying of a drug overdose in 1997. It’s a warm look that reminds one of a well-produced reel one might see at a memorial service, heavy on the narrative history and plenty of funny anecdotes from friends and family. Among those interviewed are Farley’s brothers and fellow SNL-ers David Spade, Adam Sandler and Mike Myers.
But there are nuggets of meatier stuff available to armchair psychologists in Farley’s re-told journey, from his boisterous childhood in a look-at-me family and break-out gig at Chicago’s Second City through his high-profile days at SNL. The film is best when it’s drawing the line between aspects of the hidden Farley (scared, needy) and some of his more memorable characters, like motivational speaker Matt Foley or the nervous host of the “Chris Farley Show.” Some of Farley’s sager colleagues realize how critical it was for the insecure comedian to be part of a supportive ensemble, rather than being a solo film star. There’s talk of Farley’s darker, self-destructive side (“a very sweet guy … before midnight,” says Bob Saget), but mostly interviewees recall the happier times.