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Film / Tommy Boy

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"Holy shnikies!"

Tommy Callahan: Hey, I know I'm not probably the answer you guys are looking for, but I feel I gotta do something. You're right. I don't know much about this stuff, but he does.
Richard Hayden: Oh, no!

A 1995 comedy directed by Peter Segal and starring Chris Farley and David Spade.

Tommy Callahan (Farley) is the Manchild son of charismatic auto parts manufacturing businessman "Big" Tom Callahan (Brian Dennehy). Big Tom is marrying Beverly Barish-Burns (Bo Derek), a trophy wife who brings along her rather conniving adult "son" Paul (Rob Lowe), but things go downhill when Big Tom suffers a fatal heart attack at the wedding reception. His now-widow and stepson quickly set plans in motion to sell the company to rival auto parts magnate Ray Zalinsky (Dan Aykroyd), which will make them rich but put all the workers at Callahan out of work.

The only way for Tommy to avert this is to go on the road with his father's sycophantic assistant Richard (Spade) and sell 500,000 brake pads to pay back the loan for the brake pad division. But will a bumbling idiot who took seven years to finish college have enough business savvy to make a sale... and will he be able to overcome the scheming of his new "family"?

Not to be confused with Tomboy. See also Black Sheep (1996), another comedy film starring Chris Farley and David Spade released the following year.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Beverly looks awfully young for someone with a grownup son. Turns out she's not really Paul's mother; she's his wife!
  • Actor Allusion:
  • The Alleged Car: Richard's Cool Car turns into this during the course of the film, between the M&M's, the door coming off at the gas station (forcing them to replace it with cardboard), the deer tearing up the entire backseat (and most of the rest of the car), and the hood coming off because of the oil can left in. By the end of the film, Richard parks it illegally and tells the objecting security guard to "keep it".
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: On the way to a sale, Richard and Tommy strike a deer in the road and, feeling guilty, they load it into the back of the car to figure out what to do with it later. After botching the sale, the deer wakes up and tears the car apart trying to get out before running off into the woods, unharmed. While this may seem like an abnormally Made of Iron animal being Played for Laughs, anyone living in the U.S. where whitetail deer are prevalent know that they are durable to an almost supernatural degree. Deer have been known to walk away from 60mph car impacts with little more than a light daze. Considering Richard was stomping on the brakes at the time, the deer probably wouldn't have even been knocked out.
  • Amazing Freaking Grace: Played during Big Tom's funeral, on bagpipes. As Tommy Boy walks home, a brass choir joins the mix.
  • Amusing Injuries: Paul. Also Tommy, when Richard finally loses it around him and when he's in the plane bathroom.
  • And Call Him "George": Tommy's Large Ham explanation to the waiter about how he kills sales with his bumbling is a picture-perfect showcase of how this trope works. It also unnerves the waiter enough to make her decide to give him what he wants.
    Tommy: Hey, what's your name?
    Helen: Helen.
    Tommy: That's nice, you look like a Helen. Helen, we're both in sales. Let me tell you why I suck as a sales man. Let's say I go into a guy's office, let's say he's even remotely interested in buying something. Well, then I get all excited. I'm like Jojo the idiot circus boy with a pretty new pet.
    [Grabs a dinner roll]
    Now, the pet is my possible sale. [dumb voice] "Hello there pretty little pet, I love you". [normal voice] And then I stroke it, and I pet it, and I massage it. [dumb voice] "He-he, I love it, I love my little naughty pet, you're naughty!" [back to normal voice] And then I take my naughty pet and I go [makes ripping noises as he tears apart the dinner roll] OOOOOOHHH! I killed it! I killed my sale!
    [The other patrons in the room turn to watch what is going on]
    And that's when I blow it. That's when people like us have gotta forge ahead, Helen. Am I right?
    Helen: God, you're sick. [Beat as Tommy ironically chuckles] Tell ya what, I'll go turn the friers back on and throw on some wings for you.
  • Answer Cut: When Richard objects to the idea of him going on the sales trip with Tommy, Frank Rittenhauer asks him if he has a better idea to save the company. Cut to Tommy and Richard hitting the road.
  • Anti-Villain: Zelensky is a selfish tycoon willing to lay off the hardworking people at Callahan Auto, but he's more or less following the law and his bottom line. Once Tommy manages to prevent his takeover of Callahan Auto, he magnanimously concedes to Tommy and immediately has Paul arrested when he learns about his sabotage of Callahan's brake pad deliveries.
  • Artistic License – History: In Tommy's US History final, one of the questions is "Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and _____ Hancock were all framers of the Constitution.", to which Tommy answers "Herbie Hancock" instead of "John Hancock". Except that neither Jefferson nor Hancock were involved in the framing of the Constitution. No wonder Tommy took seven years to finish college.
  • Artistic License – Law: When Tommy is being pulled over by the police, he comments that the police will never believe he wasn't drinking even though a simple breathalyzer test would prove he was sober. However, consumption of alcohol inside a motor vehicle is illegal in Ohio and can result in a 30-day jail sentence.
  • Batman Gambit: Knowing that Zalinsky places a high value on his P.R. image, Tommy gets him to purchase the entirety of Callahan's brake pad stock in front of a news camera (with Zalinsky writing it off as a symbolic move, since he's about to own the company anyway), and then Tommy reveals that because of Beverly's illegal marriage to Big Tom, he's still the majority stockholder at Callahan, and declines to sell the company to Zalinsky.
  • Benevolent Boss: Big Tom Callahan. Tommy becomes this by the end of the movie. In between them is Frank Rittenhauer, Callahan's vice president who keeps the company going while Tommy and Richard are on the road.
  • Berserk Button: Tommy puts up with a lot of abuse from Richard but becomes enraged when Richard accuses him of being a disappointment to his father's legacy and taking advantage of him. Meanwhile, Richard loses his temper when Tommy makes fun of his diminutive stature.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Michelle is a Nice Girl with a soft spot for Tommy, but she is capable of putting the fear of God into others, as a bunch of snide brats finds out. She also has Paul put behind bars when she finds out about his computer fraud.
  • Big Bad: One might initially be inclined to think that it's Zalinsky, who plays entirely by the book, but it's really Beverly and Paul.
  • Big Fun: Applies to both Tommy and Big Tom Callahan.
  • Big "YES!": By the Callahan workers when Zalinsky agrees to buy their brake pads on TV.
    R.T.: I don't believe it. Tommy just sold half a million brake pads.
    Louis: Tommy just sold a half a million BRAKE PADS!!
    (everybody cheers)
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Zalinsky. In his commercials he presents himself as a good guy who cares about the common man. In reality he's a ruthless, pragmatic businessman who doesn't care about putting thousands of people out of a job as long as it means more profits for the shareholders. Although, as shown below, he's far more nuanced than that.
  • Bluffing the Authorities: Tommy has been driving as Richard drinks. When cops try to pull them over Tommy, knowing that they will never believe he wasn't drinking, starts driving even more erratically, then pulls over and runs out of the car pretending to be attacked by bees. The officers, both of whom are allergic to bees, make a hasty retreat.
  • Book Dumb: Tommy isn't exactly the most well-read person, as evidenced by the fact it took him seven years to complete college with a D+ in History. It's shown that it's not so much an issue of intellectual capacity, but rather because he didn't feel motivated thanks to his dad's pampering, as Richard points out:
    Richard: "Hey, I'm big Tom's son! He'll fix everything, so I'm allowed to be a moron!"
    • This later comes up in his sales work. He fumbles basic facts about the product and mangles attempts at metaphor, usually due to nerves, but he eventually relaxes and shows himself to be an outstanding salesman.
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with Tommy, in boyhood and adulthood, trying to get somewhere in time (school/a dinner date with Michelle), only to get hit in the head, saying "Son of a- That's gonna leave a mark." afterwards.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Tommy. Richard, upon realizing this, explains this to him by comparing "Book Smart" (which Tommy clearly lacks) with "Street Smart". Once Tommy relaxes and stops trying too hard, he becomes an excellent salesman.
  • Camp Straight: Richard is very finicky about appearances, but the hotel scene makes it clear he's as straight as an arrow.
  • Car Radio Dispute: Tommy at one point gets into an argument over the radio with Richard, until they land on "Superstar" by the Carpenters, which they both try to talk one another into switching away from. A Gilligan Cut later, they're singing along, tears streaming down their faces.
  • Casual Car Giveaway: Near the end of the film when Tommy and Richard arrive at the airport, they ditch their car. When a police officer tells them that they're not allowed to park there, Richard tosses him the keys and says "keep it" (the car was basically falling apart at this point).
  • Catchphrase: "Son of a..."
    • "I have a plan!" "...Yikes."
    • "Shut up, Richard."
    • "Holy shnikies!"
    • "That's gonna leave a mark."
  • Character Development: When he starts his sales trip, Tommy tries and fails to use Big Tom's pitch "I can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking my head up a bull's ass, but I'd rather take a butcher's word for it." Towards the end, Tommy says it correctly, showcasing his growth into a worthy heir to the family business.
  • Charm Person: Big Tom Callahan is gifted when it comes to talking people into doing what he wants them to do (as Richard says to Tommy "your dad could sell a ketchup Popsicle to a woman wearing white gloves"). Later on Tommy discovers that he has the same talent once he stops imitating his dad and just does what comes naturally.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Michelle tells Tommy that her brother has since become a police Detective. Later, she learns from him that Beverly and Paul aren't actually mother and son, but husband and wife and con artists.
    • Zalinsky, who was going to acquire Callahan Auto but instead fills the huge order of brake pads needed to save the company from the corporate takeover.
  • The Chew Toy:
    • Richard's car goes through so much abuse through the film that he eventually gives up and just abandons it at the airport.
    • Paul goes through quite a bit of torment, but since he's a snide jerk and a conman, it's hilarious to watch.
  • Childhood Brain Damage: A Running Gag has people ask Chris Farley's character if he did X (ate paint chips, played around power-lines, etc.) as a child. Tommy would usually answer "Why?"
  • Comedic Work, Serious Scene: Big Tom's death is a genuinely sad moment in an overly comedic film.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Big Tom introduced Beverly to Tommy, he told Tommy about having proposed to her. Tommy asks him what her reply was.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Downplayed with Zalinsky. He never does anything illegal or actively try to thwart the heroes. However, he runs his company fully on pragmatism and this is bad news for the workers at Callahan Auto because he plans on shutting them down and simply making the Callahan products at his own factories.
  • Cow Tipping: The title character takes his soon-to-be-stepbrother out cow tipping. However, when he attempts to knock the cow over, he slips in the mud, the cow moos, the farmer comes out and chases them off with a shotgun.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: When Tommy learns that Beverly and Paul lied to his father so they could steal his fortune, he immediately adopts a serious mood and becomes determined to thwart them.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: Played for Laughs. Tommy and Richard mistakenly believe they've killed a deer and place it in the back of the car while they figure out where to drive it. Hilarity Ensues when the deer wakes up as they're driving.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Almost every line Richard says throughout the film has some kind of belittling of Tommy's intelligence or lampshading of how stupid he thinks the whole thing is. It's also deconstructed as it's shown that because Richard can't go long without making some kind of quip or snide, condescending remark, very few people can stand him and he doesn't have a lot of friends with one long-time customer outright saying he doesn't like Richard and calling him a "smug, unhappy little man that treats people like they were idiots"..
  • Delayed "Oh, Crap!": When Tommy and Richard realizes the deer they hit is still alive!
  • Didn't See That Coming: Tommy and Richard learn that even though they surpassed the sales goal, several orders were messed up in shipping and many of the customers cancelled their orders. Now the company doesn't have the money need to pay the bank loan and they'll need to sell to Zalinsky. Richard remarks that he feels like they've stepped into an episode of The Twilight Zone (1959).
  • Disappeared Dad: Richard didn't have a father growing up. Whether he died or was just absent is not made clear.
  • Dodgy Toupee: The dodgy half is averted, as no one knows Richard's even wearing one until it was blown off by a big fan.
  • Does This Make Me Look Fat?: "No no no, your face does."
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Michelle's brother used to steal donuts back with Tommy when they were kids. He became a cop.
  • Door Dumb: Tommy tries to open the front door to the university building, only to find it locked. After panicking and giving up, he slumps down on the steps just as another student calmly opens the adjacent door and walks in.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Richard does this after he and Tommy discover several of the brake pad orders were cancelled and the factory is about to be sold as a result.
  • Dying Town: When Tommy returns to Sandusky after graduating from college, he learns that several of the town's other industrial plants have been closed down. Callahan Auto is the town's only remaining major employer and if they shut down, the whole town will go under.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Tommy (a guy almost everyone expects to fail) endures one misfortune after another and nearly loses his entire inheritance. But by the end he has saved Callahan auto, become the company's new president (and it's implied that he will be a Benevolent Boss just like his dad), become friends with Richard, and has entered a romantic relationship with Michelle.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Young Tommy's mother calls him into the house because he'll be late to school - and he promptly runs face-first into the sliding glass door.
    • As Young Tommy is running to catch the bus, Young Richard appears next to him riding his bike to school and calls him pathetic for being late again.
    • An especially poignant one for Tommy is during the first board meeting after Big Tom's death, when Tommy is willing to sacrifice everything he has and go on a business trip that he KNOWS he has no experience handling in order to save the company. He may not be intellectual, but his heart is clearly in the right place when the time comes.
    • Subverted with Ray Zalinsky who is introduced in his commercials but Tommy learns he's not exactly the nice guy he plays on TV.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: When Richard sees Tommy cajole chicken wings out of the surly waitress Helen, simply by (dramatically) illustrating why he's failed as a salesman so far, his reaction turns from bemusement to awe, and he muses that all Tommy needed to do was relax and do what comes naturally. Richard then invokes "chicken wings" to Tommy during their next sales visit to replicate the effect.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Zalinsky has little problem with downsizing, but he draws the line at outright fraud. He immediately tries to have Paul arrested after learning about his history of fraud.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Tommy and Richard knew each other since childhood, and Tommy also went to school with Michelle and her unseen brother Dwayne. Justified because Sandusky is a rather small town.
  • Exact Words: At his dad's wedding, Richard is filming the event and Tommy asks Michelle to say a little something into the camera. She says, "A little something into the camera."
  • Face Fault: One of Farley's specialties.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Michelle fails to notice that Paul changed the quantities of various orders on the computer, despite walking in on him sitting at her computer and typing, and his suspicious behavior afterward.
  • Failure Montage: Before Tommy manages to find his groove, we are shown a montage of himself and Richard being repeatedly rejected while attempting to sell Callahan brake pads to various auto part dealers.
  • Fake Video Camera View: When Richard is filming parts of the wedding.
  • Family Business: Callahan Auto Parts has been family-owned since it was founded by Tommy's great-grandfather, and Frank Rittenhauer will be damned if that's going to change on his watch.
  • Fanservice Extra: The gorgeous blonde woman (played by model Lorri "Kit-Kat" Bagley, who dated Chris Farley at the time) who only appears in a single scene so she can go skinny-dipping.
  • Fat and Skinny: "Fat guy in a little coat! Fat guy in a little coat!"
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Tommy is held back by his childish immaturity, which prevents him from being taken seriously by the people he trying to market to. Once he sheds it and starts becoming more confident as a salesman, he begins to make sales like crazy.
    • While Richard is knowledgable and educated, his acerbic nature just alienates the people around him. Once he offers Tommy genuine sales advice rather than snide insults, their working relationship improves considerably and they become an excellent parternship.
  • Foreign Sounding Gibberish: The closed captioners didn't bother to look up the proper Spanish lyrics for the scene where the two of them sing "Eres tú", thus rendering the lyrics as quasi-Spanish-looking nonsense.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Michelle's brother Dwayne grew up to become a police officer after he and Tommy spent their teenage years pulling all kinds of pranks, including swiping doughnuts from the store.
  • Freudian Excuse: It's implied that a lot of Richard's attitude as a kid and as an adult stems from him not having a dad and resenting everyone who does, particularly Tommy.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Richard, by his own admission. While he's a good employee, he's also so condescending and smug that few can stand being around him.
  • Friendly Enemy: When Zalinsky meets Tommy, he immediately expresses his condolences for Big Tom.
  • Funny Background Event: Inside a gas station, Richard asks the clerk how far they are from Davenport, Iowa; meanwhile, Tommy accidentally unhinges the driver's side door trying to pump gas, and is seen from inside the station struggling to force it back in place.
  • Funny Fan Voice: The voice distortion caused by a fan provides the opportunity to say Lalalala-Luuuke! Luuuuuke... I am your fa-ther! in a distorted voice (also a Beam Me Up, Scotty!).
  • Genius Ditz: As Richard points out: Tommy may not have book smarts, but he has "street smarts." He's great at convincing people to do what he wants them to do, which in turn makes him a great salesman once he stops trying to imitate his father and just does what comes naturally.
  • The Ghost: Michelle's brother Dwayne, a police officer, never makes an appearance but plays a huge role in the story by revealing Paul and Beverly's true nature to the protagonists.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • Richard tells Tommy they can't take no for an answer. Cut to a montage of customers saying "no" and Tommy going, "Okay, then" and getting up to leave.
    • When the Carpenters' "Superstar" is on the car radio, Tommy and Richard both make fun of the song and noncommittally about changing stations. Quick scene cut, and they're both singing the song at the top of their lungs, tears streaming down their cheeks.
  • Gold Digger: Beverly, who marries Big Tom just so she can divorce him later on and take half his fortune.
  • Good Parents: Big Tom Callaghan. While some feel he spoiled Tommy which led to him being a bit lazy and immature, he also raised Tommy to be a good-natured, kind-hearted person who cares about others and the two clearly adore one another.
  • Graceful Loser: Zalinsky, once he realizes he can't salvage the situation. He honors the deal to purchase Callahan's brake pads even though Tommy won't sell the factory to him, congratulates Tommy for pulling off such a clever maneuver, and wishes him good luck going forward.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: The song "Eres Tú" by Mocedades, that Tommy and Richard try to sing after a Gilligan Cut of not wanting to change the radio from a Spanish station.
  • Greeting Gesture Confusion: When Tommy meets someone he believes to be his future stepbrother, he holds out his hand to shake.
    Tommy: Brothers don't shake hands! Brothers gotta HUG!
  • Groin Attack: A pretty brutal version of this happens to Paul just before he's taken away by the police. Everyone else can only wince in response.
  • Guile Hero: Tommy when he puts his mind to things, Idiot Hero when he does not.
  • Heroes' Frontier Step: The scene with the waitress is what convinces Richard that Tommy can sell.
  • Hidden Depths: Tommy seems lazy and immature, but it's shown he sincerely wants to help keep his father's company afloat and make his dad proud. He also cares very much about the workers, to the point that he's willing to put up his entire inheritance as collateral in order to get a bank loan to save everyone's jobs. That's in addition to proving himself to be a a natural salesman once he starts to relax and do what comes naturally rather than trying to impress clients.
  • Hollywood Heart Attack: Averted. Big Tom Callahan just collapses when he has his fatal heart attack.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Most executives are portrayed as such. Tommy and Big Tom are on friendly terms with the workers and describe the company as an extended family. Mr. Rittenhauer wants to honor Big Tom's wishes that the company remains a Family Business and only agrees to sell to Zalinsky when it appears there's no other choice. Mr. Gilmore, the bank executive, could be considered an antagonist, but he's shown to be regretful about the actions the bank takes and enthusiastic about helping to keep Callahan Auto afloat when it becomes possible to do so. Even Zalinsky, though not completely honest in his advertising portrayals, is up front with Tommy about his plans, fully intends to honor his purchase of 500,000 brake pads, orders his security team to apprehend Paul once his crimes are brought to light, and sincerely wishes Tommy well.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Tommy uses a few after catching Richard jacking off.
    Tommy: Richard! Were you watching, "Spanktrovision?" Maybe you were watching a movie with that funny comedian! Oh, whats his name? Buddy... Whack-it? Say! That's a pretty girl down there! Gee, I wonder if she goes out with one of the Yankees!
    Tommy: Richard... who's your favorite Little Rascal? Alfalfa? Or is it... Spanky?
  • Inadequate Inheritor: One of the main themes of the film is everyone in town wondering whether the Book Dumb Manchild Tommy can actually take his father's place as head of the Family Business and save it from bankruptcy. It's ultimately subverted when Tommy embraces his own style of doing things and succeeds.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: In the Chicago office building when a little boy calls Tommy out for being a bank robber, he says, "Oh, like it was some other real fat guy with a tiny head!" Tommy says, "... I have a tiny head?"
  • It's All My Fault: When Paul sabotages the brake pad orders, Michelle initially blames herself for the factory having to close. However, once she sees both Beverly and Paul flying to Chicago, she decides to get in touch with her police officer brother, who sends her Paul's criminal records.
  • Jerkass: Richard, although he evolves into somewhat of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. Even as a kid, he mocked Tommy for being late to school while the rest of the kids were encouraging him to catch the bus.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: At one point, Richard mocks Tommy for saying Ray Zalinsky "seems like a nice guy" after seeing the man on TV, given that the guy is actively attempting to buy Callahan Auto and put Tommy, Richard, and everyone else in town out on the street. When they meet Zalinsky in person later on, Tommy realizes his real personality is nothing like his TV persona.
    • While Richard does point out that Zalinsky may not be a nice guy, Tommy points out that they had nothing left to loose and they thought this was mostly a hail mary shot anyway.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Richard is a snide, condescending jerk much of the time but he's not a bad guy at heart. He sincerely cared about and respected Big Tom and his contempt for Tommy is due to believing Tommy never appreciated him. When he sees that Tommy does sincerely care about saving the company and the two work out how to sell, he eases up and comes to respect and see him as a friend.
  • Karma Houdini: While Paul is arrested and effectively vasectomized, Beverly not only gets away scot-free but gets a brand-new, even richer sugar daddy. Justified, since Paul abandoned her while trying to escape and was the one who actually came up with the plans and performed sabotage on the company. The only "evil" things Beverly did was marry a man for his money and lie about already being married (and try to sell off the company, but hey that's just business). Of course that leaves a problem of felony aiding and abetting, but it's just a movie.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Three random kids at the lake decide to yell a variety of cruel fat jokes at Tommy while he and Michelle are out on his boat just because they think it's funny.
  • Large Ham: Tommy, of course. He is played by Chris Farley, after all.
  • Late for School: The movie opens with a scene of young Tommy frantically trying to catch the bus to elementary school, then skips forward to modern day where Tommy is in college and late for his final history exam.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When they need to change clothes on the airplane, Richard steps into the bathroom first, and emerges fully changed three seconds later. Then, while Richard explains to Tommy what they need to do when they get to Chicago, Tommy is looking back and forth from Richard to the bathroom, utterly perplexed at how he was able to change his clothes so fast.
  • Let's See YOU Do Better!: After getting a little too much grief from Richard about the failed sales meetings, Tommy challenges him to sell the brake pads himself in the next one. Richard agrees, but he doesn't do any better as the client is turned off by his condescending attitude.
  • Manchild: Tommy is in his mid-20's, but he still acts like a sheltered teenager. While he does become more responsible over the course of the film, he still retains his idealistic personality.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The opening scene of the film depicts both Tommy and Richard as children.
  • Missing Mom: Tommy's mother passed away at some point between Tommy's childhood and adulthood, and Big Tom's admission that he'd been lonely without her is what led him to marry Beverly.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: Well, mistaken for bank robber. Twice in fact: The first time, he simply yells "Listen up! This will only take a second!" and everyone drops to the ground. The second time, he's Strapped to a Bomb made of road flares, trying to get the attention of the news crew that's only there because of the first mistake.
    • Ironically they would spend a significant portion of the flight over Lake Erie and later Lake Michigan.
  • Mood Whiplash: Heartwarming reunion! Gleeful wedding! Tear-jerking funeral. Funny buddy road movie?
  • Motor Mouth: Zalinsky. He is played by Dan Aykroyd after all.
  • Mountains Of Illinois: While disguised as a flight attendant, Richard comments that the odds of a water landing are low, he's betting if they crash into anything, it'll be a mountain. Unless they have a very unusual flight plan, they shouldn't be passing any mountains going from Sandusky, Ohio, to Chicago, Illinois.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Richard is played by the skinny and unimposing David Spade but is surprisingly strong, punching hard enough to faze Tommy and able to knock him unconscious with a single blow from a two by four.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Beverly. The girl at the pool (played by Lorri Bagley) is a Fanservice Extra.
  • Never My Fault: "Whatcha do?"
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: While Zalinsky isn't monstrously mean, it's clear that he doesn't have the high opinion of the American working man that his commercials imply.
  • Nice Guy: Tommy was doted on by his rich father and never truly had to work for anything in life. With that said, he's also one of the friendliest guys you could meet and cares about the workers at Callahan Auto Parts so much that he's willing to risk his entire inheritance to collateralize a bank loan. He's also gleeful at the prospect of having a brother and is extremely welcoming to Paul, admittedly in his own somewhat idiotic way.
  • No Indoor Voice: Tommy in many scenes. Inevitable since he's played by Chris Farley.
  • Noodle Incident:
    • When Richard sees Tommy about to chat up the girl at the pool he hopes that Tommy doesn't do the "weight room thing", implying he's seen him do it before.
    • The movie never says how Tommy and Richard get their flight attendant uniforms or how they manage to replace the real flight attendants. In the airport, Tommy asks Richard if he has any money, and then the movie immediately cuts to them aboard the plane in uniform.
  • Not Quite Dead: The deer they accidentally hit.
  • Oh, Crap!: In an attempt to find where in the building Zalinsky is, Tommy goes to a bank located in the same building and loudly shouts "Listen up! This will only take a second!" which results in everyone standing in line, including the security guards, immediately dropping to the floor, all of the tellers holding up their hands and the security guards toss-sliding their guns across the floor to him. Realizing it looks like he just attempted a bank robbery, he says "Oh, geez!" and quickly runs away.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten:
    • In-universe: Tommy catches Richard ogling an attractive skinny-dipper. After some initial teasing, they go to bed:
    Tommy: Big day tomorrow. Hope we can keep this momentum goin'.
    Richard: Yup. That'd be good.
    Tommy: Richard... Who's your favorite little rascal? Alfalfa? Or is it Spanky (chuckles) ...Sinner.
    • A husband and wife both sit on Callahan Auto Parts' board of directors. We learn that when the husband was off to war when he was young, he once visited a prostitute. His wife has been making his life a living hell ever since.
  • Parental Substitute:
    • Unlike Tommy, Richard didn't have a father growing up. Big Tom, who hired him as his assistant and looked out for him at work, is the closest thing he had.
    • After Big Tom's death, Frank Rittenhauer serves this role for Tommy, accepting his plan to sell brake pads across the midwest, and trusting in him to follow through.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Did you eat a lot of paint chips when you were a kid?" "Hehehe... why?" Near the end, Zalinsky changes it a bit and asks if he lived under power lines when he was a kid.
  • Planes, Trains, and Imbeciles: When Tommy and Richard need to get back to Chicago as soon as possible, all flights are full. The airport clerk continues searching and finds a flight back from Chicago and asks if that helps.
    Clerk: (obliviously) I don't think so.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Big Tom suffering a heart attack at the wedding is what prompts Tommy to try and save his father's company.
  • Rage-Breaking Point: Richard doesn't have much patience towards Tommy, but after the hood of his car flies open while they were driving on the highway because Tommy left a can of motor oil on top of the engine, he tears Tommy to shreds and in the resulting fight, he beats up Tommy with a two-by-four.
    Richard: Hey, I was just thinking, when we stopped for gas this morning, I think it was you who put the oil in.
    Tommy: Hey, if you're gonna say I didn't put the right kind, then you're wrong. I used 10W-30. And besides, motor oil would have nothing to do with this accident.
    Richard: True. But you can't latch the hood too well if you don't take the can out, you no-selling waste of space! I swear to God you're worthless!
    Tommy: I'm sorry about your car, but don't call me worthless. I'm trying my best. I'm not my dad.
    Richard: That's right, you're not your dad! He can sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.
    Tommy: Ketchup popsicle?
    Richard: Yeah, I learned everything I know from him. I didn't have a father, but he looked out for me. But you, he was your father and you just took it for granted. "Hey, look, I'm Big Tom's son. He can fix anything, so I'm allowed to be a moron!"
  • Random Events Plot: To the point that Roger Ebert declared that "is one of those movies that plays like an explosion down at the screenplay factory."
  • Real Men Wear Pink: After initially pretending to dislike it to one another, Tommy and Richard get really into "Superstar" by The Carpenters and gleefully sing along.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Tommy gets more than his share of these speeches from Richard throughout the movie, but Richard gets a very well-deserved one from a prospective client, who calls him out on being a smug, condescending Jerkass to everyone he meets.
    Client: There's a problem: I don't like you. I never have, and I probably never will. You're a smug, unhappy little man who treats people like they're idiots.
  • Refuge in Audacity: When Richard gets drunk after Paul's computer sabotage makes things turn way south, Tommy's car's targeted by cops; when the car weaves, they put their lights on, but Tommy relates a little trick his Dad taught him; they stop the car and act like giant bees are attacking them! Both cops in pursuit are allergic to bees, so they leave. Score!
  • The Resenter: It's implied Richard's contempt for Tommy stems from the fact that Tommy's always gotten his way in life despite being a lazy Manchild, while Richard has had to work hard to get to where he is. During their big fight, Richard bemoans the fact that he never had a father, while Tommy took his father for granted. When Tommy does start putting in effort and closing deals, Richard's attitude toward him improves considerably.
  • Rule of Funny: A guy of Chris Farley's size changing clothes in a tiny airplane bathroom? Tommy even tries to protest (maybe he can change at the airport?) but Richard won't have it. This is even set up by Richard going into the bathroom before him...and emerging fully changed two seconds later.
  • Running Gag:
    Tommy: Can I open my eyes now, dad?
    Big Tom: I told you not to cover them.
    Big Tom: For God's sakes, stop covering your damn eyes!
    • Also, Tommy keeps screwing up his dad's catchphrase ("I could get a good look at a t-bone steak by sticking my head up a bull's ass, but I'd rather take the butcher's word for it!") with hilarious results.
    • Tommy has a knack for bumping into things, mainly glass doors. As the movie's final joke, the wind causes the sail on Tommy's boat to hit him in the head.
    • Paul causes several painful injuries upon himself completely by accident.
    • Richard's car goes through a considerable amount of abuse, usually because of Tommy and the deer Richard accidentally hits to the point he gives the keys to a security guard and lets it get towed at the airport.
    • Tommy seems to always be wearing a jacket too small for someone his size.
  • Sarcasm Mode: "Oh that sounds good: melted chocolate inside the dash. That really ups the resale value."
  • Saving the Orphanage: Tommy and Richard go on their sales tour in order to save the Callahan factory, in turn saving the town it provides jobs for.
  • Schmuck Bait: Discussed and Invoked. Tommy manages to make his first sale to Ted Nelson, who was concerned about Callahan Auto not putting guarantees on their product labels, by convincing him that guarantees are just a way for companies to sell shoddy products to consumers and replace them when they inevitably break down without any repercussions.
  • Shirtless Scene: Involuntary on accident-prone Paul's part, after it gets caught in a pneumatic tube. He's very nonchalant about it. But maybe it was on purpose...
  • Shout-Out: .
  • Slave to PR: Zalinsky's public image is all smiles and a We Care attitude toward everyday workers, but the reality is a sobering experience for Tommy. However, Tommy exploits this by having him sign the brake pad purchase order in front of a live news crew.
  • Small Town Boredom: Paul is unimpressed with the limited recreation opportunities in Sandusky. Tommy, on the other hand, loves them.
    • Ironically, Sandusky is a major tourist destination since it’s home to Cedar Point, one of the largest amusement parks in America, and numerous water parks both indoors and outdoors.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: Done with the trope naming song (they only catch the chorus and "6 O'clock, TV hour" before it goes down to mumbling).
  • Smart Jerk and Nice Moron: Richard's the right-hand man to Tommy's father, Big Tom Callahan, but comes off as an Insufferable Genius who routinely disparages other people, especially Tommy. Tommy is a bumbling ditz, taking seven years to finish college, but he's willing to do whatever it takes to keep his family's business afloat, even giving up his inheritance. After spending most of the movie struggling to make sales, Richard realizes that Tommy has street smarts when he sees him successfully talk a waitress into giving them a special, and after Tommy learns to stop trying to emulate his father and act naturally, they make many sales.
  • Smug Snake: Richard. One client even outright calls him a "smug, unhappy little man who treats people like they were idiots".
  • Sound Defect: While spying on the naked girl in the pool, Richard manages to unzip a pair of boxers.
  • Spoiled Sweet: Tommy led a very pampered life with pretty much everything he wanted given to him and is pretty sheltered and immature as a result but he is shown over the course of the film to be an incredibly sweet-natured, sincere person who cares deeply about others and goes out of his way to keep the business afloat.
  • Strapped to a Bomb: Tommy fakes this with road flares and Richard's watch.
  • Talker and Doer: Tommy is the Talker, Richard is the Doer.
  • Talking to the Dead: In the final scene, Tommy talks to his dad while sitting in his stationary sailboat. Tommy takes the wind suddenly blowing as a sign his dad is listening.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Richard is incredibly knowledgeable about the brake pad industry, but his snide attitude makes him a poor salesman. Tommy is an uneducated manchild, but his ability to read people makes him a successful salesman.
  • Techno Babble: Richard knows all the technical details of Callahan's brake pads, but both times he's shown telling potential clients about them, he gets rebuffed.
    Richard: Well then... I'd just like to add that the spectrometer readout on the nickel–cadmium alloy mix indicates a good rich strobe and fade, decreasing incidents of wear to the pressure plate. If you could just—
    Client: Whoa, little fella, you're not speaking my language.
    [much later...]
    Richard: Our brake pads are made with a non-corrosive, poly-plated—
    Ted Nelson: Son, if you're not talking about a guarantee, skip it. My customers need to see that little label looking them right in the eye.
  • Tempting Fate: Averted, when after meeting with Zalinsky and seeing his "new mom and brother" in the boardroom Tommy and Richard sit on a park bench while Tommy bemoans their state of affairs. He doesn't have time to say, "At least it can't get any worse" before the bench collapses under their weight.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: After getting his nuts squashed by a falling weight, being hauled away by the police, and having Zalinsky swoop in and put the moves on his wife, Paul gets a little break from his humiliating defeat courtesy of the aforementioned:
    Zalinsky: (to an assistant) "Find out where the police will be taking him, send over a bottle of bubbly with a bucket of ice and a card. Have it say: 'Tough break. Get drunk on me. Use the bucket to ice down your marbles. Yours, Z.'"
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Once Tommy shows potential as a salesman, Richard does start going much easier on the guy. Even when it appears they've failed in the end, he still tells Tommy he's proud of him and did everything he could've.
  • Travelling Salesman Montage: Of course. There are two in fact. One as a failure and one as a success.
  • 2xFore: When Richard's car is well and truly ruined thanks to Tommy, he angrily pulls off the highway next to a 'Prehistoric Forest' roadside attraction, and has it out with him. They step out of the car to duke it out, and Tommy lets Richard take his best shot. After a couple of punches have no effect, Richard picks up a 2×4 and smacks Tommy across the face, knocking him cold.
  • Under Strange Management: The title character is a Book Dumb Manchild who has to save his late father's auto parts manufacturing company.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Paul and Beverly are a husband and wife team of con artists who pose as a mother and her son.
  • Unintentional Backup Plan: The con artists expected to simply bleed Big Tom dry for about a year before Beverly divorced him and got a big payday. Then he immediately died at the wedding and were put in a situation where they could make more money by selling the company.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: Zalinsky may not be a crook or a monster, but he's willing to throw Callahan Auto's employees under the bus for the bottom line, and he admits to Tommy that he views the American public as sheep he can exploit. When Tommy outsmarts him and proves that Beverly has no rightful claim to her shares of the company, Zalinsky is more than a bit annoyed than he won't be able to buy Callahan Auto, but he accepts his defeat with dignity, wishes Tommy the best, and has Paul locked up for fraud.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Tommy and Richard are constantly trading insults with each other, but when the chips are down they have to admit that they consider each other friends.
    • Notice that at Big Tom's funeral, after everyone else has left the cemetery, that Tommy is standing in shock at his father's grave Richard is still there, quietly keeping a concerned eye on him from a few feet behind. Being as Big Tom is no longer his boss and he has nothing to gain it’s a clear indication that he truly cares about Tommy.
  • Vomiting Cop: Included on Tommy's very disastrous sales pitch, where he, in trying to demonstrate why his company's brake pads are the best, narrates a horrible accident from a car using other brake pads using the CEO's model cars.
    Tommy: Here comes the meat wagon. Wee-oo, wee-oo, wee-oo! And the medic gets out and says "Oh. My. God." New guy's in the corner puking his guts out. (imitating vomiting) "RAUGHH! RAAUUGHH!" All because you want to save a couple extra pennies.
  • Wardrobe Flaw of Characterization: Tommy starts off wearing an off-the-rack suit with a clip-on necktie, which shows how unaccustomed he is to the business world. Towards the end, as he shows himself a worthy heir to his family's company, he wears a higher quality suit and tie.
  • We Care: Zalinsky's ads: "I make car parts for the American working man, because that's what I am, and that's who I care about." The reality: "Truth is, I make car parts for the American working man because I'm a hell of a salesman and he doesn't know any better."
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Tommy tells Michelle if she kept the files in the file cabinet, then they wouldn't have lost the orders needed to save the company. Unbeknownst to them both, it was Paul who screwed up the orders.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Beverly was this to Tommy until it was revealed she was already married to Paul, thus making her marriage to Big Tom illegal.
  • Won't Take "Yes" for an Answer: Tommy certainly wasn't expecting someone would buy from him...
  • World-Weary Waitress: Tommy and Richard run into a sarcastic, surly waitress; Tommy's ability to break through her gruff exterior and find her Hidden Heart of Gold serve as evidence of his latent sales skills.
  • Worthy Opponent: After Tommy tricks Zalinsky into buying half a million brake pads and saving Callahan Auto, Zalinsky seems impressed rather than outraged.
    Zalinsky: Well kid, you threw one by me. Savor the flavor because it sure as hell won't happen again. In the meantime, good luck to you.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Michelle finally had enough of the kids heckling her and Tommy and scares them away by yelling this back at them:
    "Listen up, you little spazoids! I know where you live and I've seen where you sleep! I swear by everything that's holy, your mothers will cry when they see what I've done to you!"
  • You Did Everything You Could: Near the end when Tommy mopes after failing to convince Zelinsky not to buyout Callahan Auto, Richard assures him he did everything he could have to save the company and Big Tom would've been proud of his efforts.
  • You Don't Want to Catch This: "Bees! Bees! Oh, God, they're everywhere!"


Video Example(s):


Tommy Catches Richard

When Richard spies a beautiful woman swimming, he decides to enjoy himself from afar. Then Tommy returns to the hotel room ...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThePeepingTom

Media sources: