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‘I Am Chris Farley’ a must-see for comic actor’s fans

Date: 8/21/2015

Television looms large in this week’s film review column.

On DVD and streaming: I Am Chris Farley

This affectionate but realistic look at the late comic actor Chris Farley is both celebratory and sad. After all, he died at just the age of 33 from an overdose of morphine and cocaine at the height of his career.

The many people interviewed – from all of his siblings to his co-stars and friends – paint a picture in this film of an affable, very talented performer who yearned to be part of a team and wasn’t prepared emotionally to be a stand-alone star.

The footage of his childhood and the recollections of his brothers and sisters show a middle kid who wanted to be the center of attention and successfully did so. He seemed to be a natural entertainer from boyhood.

Farley was willing to do almost anything in the cause of making people laugh, contributing to his comic legend. His work on “Saturday Night Live” made him an enduring star from that series.

Something, though, was wrong, and in Farley’s case it was a reoccurring problems with first alcohol and then with drugs. He went to rehab 17 times trying to conquer addiction, but was unsuccessful.

The film put forth the theory that Farley instinctively wanted to be part of a team. “Saturday Night Live” was a team effort and he shined. The success he had naturally led to movie work, first in supporting roles and then as the star of three films.

This film isn’t an anti-drug rant. It is far more of a cautionary tale of what can happen when certain personality traits are introduced to fame.

I also like that the film addresses the fact that Farley was overweight. It was something he acknowledged although it was clear he was uncomfortable using it as a basis for gags. The interviews with his former girlfriend, a Victoria’s Secret model, indicate his personality was more important to people than his waistline.

Any fan of Farley’s will want to see this film.

On DVD: The Hee Haw Collection

Sure I watched “Hee Haw” some when it was on the air. When it started in 1969, I had three, maybe four channels from which to chose. Like my fellow Baby Boomers in similar situations, I watched a little of everything.

That’s not to say I really liked it, though, but my re-viewing of the shows in the three discs of this collection earned my grudging admiration.

Successfully pitched to CBS as a “country version of “Laugh In,” “Hee Haw” lasted two years on CBS before the network cancelled all of its rural themed shows. Then it went into syndication and lasted until 1992, a historic run for television.

“Hee Haw” had the last laugh on “Laugh In,” by running far longer than anyone would have thought. My guess is a contemporary review of “Laugh In” would reveal a certain datedness that elements of “Hee Haw” avoided.

Like “Laugh In,” “Hee Haw” was a joked filled, fast-moving show with reoccurring comic bits. Some are funny, while others are painfully corny.

One of the biggest stars on the show was a performer named Junior Samples, a seemingly fresh off the streets Southerner who could barely get a line of dialogue or a joke out of mouth without being mangled. I still can’t decide how much of his persona was an act and how much wasn’t.

Perhaps where the show truly shined was its presentation of the biggest names in country music during its long run and this collection presents performers such as Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn Conway Twitty, Hank Williams Jr. and Tammy Wynette, among others.

If you liked “Hee Haw” from years past, this set would be probably a welcomed addition to your DVD collection.