Anthony's Film Review

Black Sheep (1996)

Because the humor is overly done, Black Sheep is nothing more than a very bland comedy...

Black Sheep, starring Chris Farley and David Spade, is a great example of a comedy film that just tries way too hard. For me, this is one of those comedy movies where I spent the entire movie not laughing at all. Instead, I used the time to analyze and ponder on the reason the humor in this movie didn't work. You could say that this review also provides words of advice for anyone want to write or act in comedy. So if you're one of those people, listen up.

First, let me summarize the plot. Chris Farley is a guy named Mike Donnelly, the accident-prone brother of politician Al Donnelly (Tim Matheson), who is running for Governor of the state of Washington. Mike is someone who means well, because he does try to inspire people to vote for Al. Unfortunately, disaster always follows Mike, which makes Al increasingly impatient. Meanwhile, David Spade as Al's campaign advisor Steve Dodds also has to make sure that Mike doesn't get into any more trouble. And while we're at it, throw in the campaign staff of Al's political rival and their efforts to exploit Mike's problems for political gain.

The plot is really just a backdrop for physical comedy. I don't mind comedies where the story is only a string for funny scenes to hang from (the Naked Gun movies are a great example of this), so I really could care less about what Black Sheep's plot is. I also don't mind the kinds of comedy situations seen throughout this movie, including those that involve falling down a mountain, catching a bat in a cabin, getting stuck in a voting booth, and even having a jacket stuck in an airplane door as it is taking off a runway. However, they have to make me laugh, and I'm sorry to say that every one of those scenes failed to do so.

In fact, I have the same criticisms for every single comedy scene, as if each comedy scene were clones of each other. Basically, the scenes were not funny for me because they were missing two key elements: surprise and wit. To be at least minimally funny, the scene has to deliver the punchline when it's least expected. There's a scene where Mike and Steve are sleeping in a damaged cabin as a strong wind lifts part of the roof. You can easily anticipate what happens next: the roof comes off completely. Then you can correctly guess that precipitation will come pouring down into the roofless cabin (in this case, it involves hailstones). As for wit, you have to let character traits, situations, and other elements collide in unexpectedly clever ways. You can't just let physical antics be the sole source of comedy, and you certainly can't let the physical comedy be overacted, as Chris Farley does here.

For me, Black Sheep wasn't a movie that was painful or boring to watch. It was simply flat. Sure, I stayed awake enough to pay attention to the story and sit through the comedy scenes, but I came out feeling the exact same way as when the movie started. Inability to make the audience feel good after the movie ends is always a bad sign for a comedy, not to mention a waste of time. Perhaps Black Sheep is an appropriate title for this unfunny comedy. Among comedies that are great, this one stands out as the troublesome one that deserves to be ignored.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Black Sheep, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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