Comedy. The most subjective of any genre in film. What I despise might be comedic gold for another. With this in mind, when do you introduce your kids to your favorite comedies? Will the jokes still be relevant? Should a kid understand all the jokes in a movie before they watch, or can some go over their heads? Can you really squeeze a fat guy in a little coat?
The Chris Farley classic Tommy Boy. One of my favorite comedies of all time. I drop dialogue from this movie into conversations at least once a week. I watched Chris Farley on Saturday Night Live, but this movie made him an icon. Just about everyone who grew up in the 90’s has seen and can quote this film. The question is does it hold up for a new generation? Does Farley’s comedy translate or do some of the jokes fall flat for kids today?
I decided to let my eleven year old watch Tommy Boy. Common sense media has an age rating for Tommy Boy of 16+, because a character masturbates and drugs are used without any consequences. I’ll put a link to the rest of their review in the description below. To each their own, but for me sixteen is ultra conservative for this movie. Yes David Spades character gets caught masturbating, but nothing is shown, at all. The girl who is skinny dipping in the pool isn’t shown, at all. Yes marijuana use is shown at the beginning of the movie, but that’s it, and it’s not explicit. I would also argue if you want to have a serious conversation about drug use, you could point to how slow Tommy Callahan is in the movie and use it as deterrent for using drugs.
I’ll admit I lead a fairly sheltered life up until the time I went to college. I had no idea what a bong even was or what it looked like. Watching this movie in high school I didn’t even realize what they were smoking in the first part of the movie. Richard makes a joke about Tommy’s brain being filled with bong resin, which I never caught or noticed when I was younger. My son who hasn’t been exposed to any actual drug use wouldn’t have understood the first part of the movie either. He also probably didn’t understand the joke at the hotel. If he did understand either situation, it would be a good conversation starter, instead of just pretending these things don’t exist.
If these jokes do go over a kid’s head there is still plenty to love in Tommy Boy. Farley was brilliant at physical comedy. Watching the movie again it was impressive to realize how much he used his body to get a laugh. There are countless examples of him using his body in the movie in this way. One in particular is when he is getting hosed off after going cow tipping, and is running in place. It’s silly and I’m not sure why I think it’s funny but just his action causes the laughter. The way he shrugs or turns his head all have comedic timing in the film. He was a very special talent.
The plot of the movie is easy to understand. Tommy’s dad dies, and he has to go out on the road to sell parts to keep his factory from closing. Having the new Step-Mom and brother actually be con-artists does add a layer complexity, but not much. My eleven year old didn’t have any trouble understanding what was happening during the story. The movie is a simple buddy road trip movie, with an okay plot. The film has just enough of a grounded story to not make it go off the rails. They weren’t trying to make Citizen Kane with this, but what the movie did was let Chris Farley shine.
My eleven year old liked the Tommy Boy, and I’m glad I let him watch. He says he likes Happy Gilmore more than this, I’ll take Tommy Boy, but I’m glad he likes both. He laughed the hardest during the scene were Tommy reenacts a car accidents with the models in an office. I forgot just how funny that scene is, and how perfect Farley plays it. I laughed the most when Tommy uses a payphone at the airport. I stopped the movie and asked if my son knew what those were, and he said a phone. I asked what kind and he said a corded one. I said it’s a payphone. His response: You had to pay to use those? My wife and I cracked up. Made me feel old, but hey at least he knows what they are now.
So other than the minimal drug use, the masturbation scene, and a few other lewd jokes there really isn’t much in the movie to prevent me from letting my kids watch. An appropriate age range for my kids would be 10-13 years old. I think some of the jokes will go over their head, but when they come back and watch when they are older they can get even more enjoyment out of the film My oldest seems to like comedies so I might have to stick with these, and then branch off to other genres to try and ramp up his passion for movies.
When was the first time you saw Tommy Boy? If you have kids, when would you let them watch? Comment and let me know.