Just remember it’s only funny because it isn’t you (and because it’s Chevy Chase in his prime). Would enjoy unknowingly setting the record for eating lamb testicles? Would you enjoy your drunken mailman tossing your mail on the ground every day? Would you enjoy finding dead people buried in the backyard of your new home?
Thought not… but if it’s someone else, it’s hysterical. We’re a cruel species.
The final film directed by George Roy Hill (Slap Shot), Funny Farm doesn’t quite have the stamina to go the distance, the third act slowing down to a crawl, but getting there is a riot. Red Bud is quintessential small town America, at least as Hollywood tends to portray it. It’s loaded with lovable characters, quirkiness, and Chase going completely off the deep-end as his dream to become a novelist collapses around him.
Poor Andy Farmer (Chase) puts up with a lot, even desperately trying to track down the maniacal drunken mailman just to talk to him. He just wants it all to be perfect for him and his wife Elizabeth (Madolyn Smith Osborne). It’s not far from the Vacation films in which Clark W. Griswold tries his best to please his family, typecasting Chase for sure, but right in the realm of what he does best. No one can take a shot to the groin like Chase.
There is minimal story here; the film is more of an excuse for the various antics and interactions, probably why the third act doesn’t really connect. The marital problems stemming from the publishing deals of a novel are not only unfunny, they push narrative instead of laughs. The predictable finish doesn’t help matters either, leaving Funny Farm on a bit of a sour note, but the generous countryside photography (especially in the snow) is worth dealing with some of the drivel.
Funny Farm comes crammed onto a single Blu-ray with a co-feature Spies Like Us. Couple that with one of Warner’s generally inadequate VC-1 encodes, and it’s all set up for disaster. If the opening frames aren’t enough, littered with artifacting and noise from the smokey environment, then you’ll likely be able to stomach the rest of this effort.
The source material seems fine. The print itself is in immaculate shape with a barely a speck or scratch to speak of. Hefty softness dominates, and this is probably an older master tossed out there to make a buck. That would explain the complete and total lack of fine detail, this transfer failing to produce a single facial pore or other texture. Generally, that’s all hidden by the grain, but that’s not natural either. The walls of the house, especially before all of their furniture arrives, are riddled with artifacting and chroma noise. Almost nothing is well resolved here.
It wouldn’t be fair to completely discredit this effort. The photography does produce some decent visuals, the lush greens of the plant life particularly impressive. No encode could eliminate that. There are some excellent shots, including 12:04, where leaves and such are individually visible and not swallowed by the compression. Near the end, filters and soft lighting effects are utilized, further softening the film, but this is by design. There’s nothing wrong with the slight color bleed at 1:38:11; it’s the intent.
Certain shots can seem pulled from another film, or possibly a different master. A lot of the stuff inside the cabin during the couple’s anniversary celebration suffers from black crush, such as 43:58. A few transitions cause excessive focus issues, such as 45:15 as Chase pulls away in his car. An even rarer effect makes this looks processed, digital, and even a hair DNR’ed, such as 1:10:29. Not sure why that would be the case.
Warner delivers a DTS-HD 2.0 mix, one with very little noticeable separation between the stereo channels. Nothing is really noted until the end when the carolers being their assault on a couple thinking about buying the house, and outside their singing can be confined to a single channel.
Dialogue is a bit flat and meager, although it does not carry that irritating hiss from Spies Like Us. The only truly dated aspect of the audio is the bridge collapse at 15:40, which sounds as if the treble was cranked up as high as it will go, and then the audio was run over sandpaper. It’s barely audible, and if it weren’t the visuals, it would be easy to guess it’s a bunch of static playing over the radio.
The generally light and breezy score from Elmer Bernstein is handled with care at least, particularly the opening cues, heavy on the horns. Fidelity is excellent, reaching satisfactory, clean highs. It comes without distortion or fidelity issues.
Two movies. One disc. Not a single extra.