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Blu-ray Review: Black Sheep (1996)

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The Film

Sometimes nostalgia gets the better of me when it comes to crappy movies, but it seems enough years have passed since my first gleeful viewing of 1996’s Black Sheep, and there’s now no questioning how truly terrible a film this is. It’s a shame too, because Chris Farley and David Spade made the admittedly lowbrow but downright hilarious Tommy Boy only a year earlier. This time around, their sweaty, ne’er-do-well, smarmy, know-it-all rapport is undermined by an embarrassingly bad script courtesy of Fred Wolf, who would go on to pen classics like Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Farley’s manic energy manages to save a few scenes, but Black Sheep has not weathered the years well.

Farley stars as Mike Donnelly, a bumbling recreation center employee who wants more than anything to help his brother Al (Tim Matheson) win the race for Washington State governor. Unfortunately, Mike can’t help but screw up everything he touches, leading to an embarrassing series of incidents that threaten to derail his brother’s campaign. Looking for a way to keep Mike from the public eye, Al and his campaign manager assign eager lackey Steve Dodds (Spade) to take care of Mike. They hole up in a cabin in the boonies, having to deal with the elements of nature and a deranged G.I. (Gary Busey, playing one level lower of crazy than he actually is) who lives there. Eventually, when Mike thinks he discovers voter fraud, he rushes back to save the day.

Black Sheep does have a few memorable moments – the best is when a high Mike and Steve get pulled over for going 7 m.p.h. – but it’s obvious when good ideas were in short supply, and Farley resorts to simply yelling things loudly. Joke after joke falls flat, dialogue that attempts to be serious is funnier than the jokes, and Spade and Farley never get into the groove their previous work together shows they were capable of.

As one who has always been entertained by Farley’s brand of humor, I can barely still regard Black Sheep as a guilty pleasure. There are five to 10 minutes of solid comedy sprinkled throughout, but it’s really not worth sifting through the rest.

The Blu-ray Disc

Black Sheep is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The visual presentation was a moderate surprise for me, looking considerably better than I expected. The entire film appears fresher and brighter, even if there’s nothing too terribly impressive that sticks out. Trace amounts of film grain, scratches, and dirt can be seen throughout, but for the most part the film strikes a consistent, even-toned look. Don’t expect too much from the subdued color palette, but for a film of its age and type, Black Sheep looks pretty good.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD, and is almost solely a front-channel affair for this dialogue-driven film. Small occurrences of ambient sound can be heard, but the only real dynamic sound is featured in a musical number from Seattle grunge band Mudhoney. More than capable, the mix is clear and consistent throughout.

Special Features

There’s nary an extra to be found on the disc – the studio couldn’t even be bothered to slap a trailer on here.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a Black Sheep fan, it might just be better to give the film a rest and let the positive memories of it linger – another viewing probably won’t serve those memories too well. The Blu-ray does provide a better-than-expected picture, but it hardly seems worth the upgrade for this underwhelming effort from Farley and Spade. With no bonus features added at all, you might as well just stick with the DVD.

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.