For more than three years, comedians Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy have been packing houses across the country with their "Blue Collar Comedy Tour," which now has become a well-crafted concert film that should delight fans and attract new ones.
Several things are striking about these well-seasoned comedy pros. Although all are self-professed purveyors of redneck humor, they are actually quite distinct from one another in personality and style, more so than their African American counterparts of the highly successful Kings of Comedy tour and film. By the same token, the Kings of Comedy not only are more socially and politically conscious but are more outrageous and freewheeling and incite more robust laughter than do the Blue Collar guys, who in fact take pains not to perpetuate widely deplored redneck stereotypes in their comedy. They rightly avoid ethnic and racial references, and only the grimmest feminist could remotely regard them as sexist. By and large this leaves the men mainly to poke fun at themselves and to find humor in their daily lives.
That's more than a rich enough vein for Foxworthy and Engvall to mine endlessly, and to strike a universal note in the process. The beefy, often crude -- but also very sly -- Larry the Cable Guy is strong on bodily functions, and it is possible to watch his entire routine and admire his timing and not be moved to laughter at all. Similarly, Ron White, a big, paunchy Texan who performs with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other, is strong on living-hard humor, which can be limited in its appeal despite his martini-dry delivery.
Foxworthy and Engvall have been major-league entertainers for a long time, and this film confirms and preserves their reputations. Both are devoted family men, and their comments on love, marriage and children brim over with warm, affectionate wisdom and sensitive perception as well as hilarity. Foxworthy is especially virtuosic in his physical comedy, his flights of fancy and lightning shifts of tone and mood, and he blends all these elements effortlessly. He may define being redneck as possessing "a glorious lack of sophistication," but the truth is that Foxworthy, for all his regular-guy image, is a decidedly sophisticated artist.
Fresh off a season of "The Osbournes," director CB Harding was an ideal choice for "Blue Collar," for he captures the relaxed rhythms of the comedians while keeping the film well paced. Breaks involving the men visiting Victoria's Secret and other venues seem pointless digressions, but the film goes for a strong finish when all four comedians sit down on stools for a lively exchange on defining what it means to be a redneck and in having a go at Engvall's "Here's a Sign" routine, in which each comes up with examples of stupid displays of people stating or inquiring about the blatantly self-evident. (To a workman who asks Engvall if the piano in his living room is in fact his piano, the comedian retorts, "No, it's a coffee table with buckteeth.")
We probably haven't seen the last of the Blue Collar Comedy Tours or film records of the four in performance.
'Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie'
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some crude and sex-related humor
Times guidelines: Suitable for older teens
A Warner Bros. Pictures presentation, in association with Pandora, of a Gaylord Films/Parallel Entertainment production. Director CB Harding. Producers Alan C, Blomquist, J.P. Williams, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala. Executive producer E.K. Gaylord. Cinematographer Bruce Finn. Editor Tony Hayman. Production designer Jeff Hall. Art director Michael Marlowe. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes.
In general release.