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Review: ‘I Am Chris Farley’ glosses over ex-'SNL’ star’s darker side

‘I Am Chris Farley’

Chris Farley from the documentary movie, “I Am Chris Farley.”

(Virgil Films)

Like a doll forever teetering on the wrong side of a do-not-overinflate experiment, Wisconsin-born “Saturday Night Live” star Chris Farley wrung laughter out of his performance paradoxes: He was large but agile, loud yet vulnerable, and somehow gracefully explosive.

Farley belongs to a long tradition of overweight comics we’ve lost too early — he died of a drug overdose in 1997 at the age of 33 — and the new documentary “I Am Chris Farley,” by Derik Murray and Brent Hodge, reaches for spirited if safe tribute in cataloging Farley’s brief time (Second City, “Saturday Night Live,” the cult hit “Tommy Boy”) as a comic force of nature.

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But while the interviewees are appropriately close to the subject — from family members (brothers Kevin, Tom and John) to famous colleagues (Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, on-screen foil and off-screen pal David Spade) — it’s mostly a hundred variations on how intense he was, or how he lit up a room, and not too much delving into the demons that precipitated his self-destruction. Perhaps fearful of venturing into downer territory, “I Am Chris Farley” sticks to slickly edited, bite-sized anecdotes about an attention-starved Midwestern goofball unprepared for stardom, accompanied by storybook music that accentuates Farley’s childlike nature over his darker impulses. Call it an arm’s-length bro-ography.

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“I Am Chris Farley.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

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Playing: At Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on video on demand Aug. 11.

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