“Black Sheep” runs for 87 minutes, which is blessedly brief by today’s standards. But it’s not nearly brief enough.
The Chris Farley-David Spade comedy is both predictable and miscalculated. One thing it’s safe to expect from two wild souls with “Saturday Night Live” on their resumes is irreverence.
But “Black Sheep” has a gooey marshmallow at its center - it’s about brotherly love and male friendship. It’s never cheeky or irreverent; it’s just mildly crude and sloppy.
It keeps emphasizing its own “family values” message as though not wishing to offend any potential viewer.
The bland Spade plays Steve Dodds, lowly aide to the very proper gubernatorial candidate Al Donnelly (Tim Matheson).
Dumb Dodds volunteers for the job of looking after Al’s brother Mike (Farley), who unintentionally manages to foul up Al’s best-laid plans.
Mike and Al love each other; they say so with unnecessary frequency throughout the film. But poor Mike can’t do anything right.
He always makes a spectacle of himself just as Al is delivering a major speech. If he does something as simple as closing his car’s trunk, we know his tie (or even a more personal appendage) will get caught.
With Dodds as chaperone, Mike runs afoul of crazed Vietnam vet Drake Sabitch (played with wild-eyed vigor by Gary Busey).
Once Mike punches Drake in the mouth, they become best buddies, just like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Drake’s military skills eventually come in handy, as Mike and Dodds run into chaos whether on the highway or locked in a woodlands cabin.
“Black Sheep” represents what is wrong with a lot of comedies these days.
Aside from its gross-out “Dumb and Dumber”-styled humor, it doesn’t take any chances. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a group hug in which someone, just to be mischievous, does something improper.
Director Penelope Spheeris, who took challenging views of American life in her early films “Suburbia” and “The Boys Next Door,” now merely choreographs chaotic set pieces, none of which are inspired or unpredictable.
Farley blusters a lot. Spade manages a couple of adequate comic reactions.
Matheson looks like his mind is somewhere else. You will find yourself empathizing with Matheson.
xxxx “BLACK SHEEP” Location: Lincoln Heights, Newport and Coeur d’Alene cinemas Credits: Directed by Penelope Spheeris; starring Chris Farley and David Spade Running time: 1:27 Rating: PG-13