Funny Farm (film)
Theatrical release poster by Steven Chorney
|Directed by||George Roy Hill|
|Produced by||Robert L. Crawford|
|Screenplay by||Jeffrey Boam|
|Based on||Funny Farm|
by Jay Cronley
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Edited by||Alan Heim|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
Funny Farm is a 1988 American comedy film starring Chevy Chase and Madolyn Smith. The film was adapted from a 1985 comedic novel of the same name by Jay Cronley. The movie was filmed on location in Vermont, mostly in Townshend, Vermont. It was the final film directed by George Roy Hill.
Andy Farmer (Chase) is a New York City sports writer who moves with his wife, Elizabeth (Smith) to the seemingly charming town of Redbud, Vermont, so he can write a novel. They do not get along well with the residents, and other quirks arise such as being given exorbitant funeral bills for a long-dead man buried on their land years before they acquired the house. Marital troubles soon arise from the quirkiness of Redbud as well as the fact that Elizabeth was critical of Andy's manuscript, while having her own manuscripts for children's books published. They soon decide to divorce and sell their home. To expedite the sale, the Farmers offer the town's residents a $15,000 donation to Redbud, and $50 cash each if they help make a good impression on their prospective home buyers. To that end, the citizens remake Redbud into a perfect Norman Rockwell-style town. Their charade dazzles a pair of prospective buyers, who make the Farmers an offer on the house; however, Andy declines to sell, realizing that he genuinely enjoys small-town living. He and Elizabeth decide to stay together in Redbud, much to the chagrin of the locals, who are now angry that they lost their promised money. Though the mayor does not hold the Farmers liable for the $15,000, as the sale of their house did not occur, Andy decides to pay everyone in Redbud their $50, which helps improve his standing among the townspeople. The film ends with Andy taking a job as a sports writer for the Redbud newspaper, and Elizabeth, now pregnant with their first child, having written multiple children's stories.
- Chevy Chase as Andy Farmer
- Madolyn Smith as Elizabeth Farmer
- Kevin O'Morrison as Sheriff Ledbetter
- Alice Drummond as Ethel Dinges
- Mike Starr as Crocker
- Glenn Plummer as Mickey
- Joseph Maher as Michael Sinclair
- Bill Fagerbakke as Lon Criterion
- Nicholas Wyman as Dirk Criterion
- William Newman as Gus Lotterhand
- Kevin Conway as Crum Petree
- Brad Sullivan as Brock
- Jack Gilpin as Bud Culbertson
- Caris Corfman as Betsy Culbertson
Screenwriter Jeffrey Boam said he "loved" the book. "It was exactly the kind of movie I always wanted to write,” said Boam. “It needed a lot of work because it wasn’t told in the fashion that could be filmed, but I loved the idea of working with Chevy. He was a comedy hero of mine and still is.”
Boam says the tone of the film changed from what he expected when director George Roy Hill signed. "George wanted to do a much classier version than I ever imagined it to be," said Boam. "I imagined it to be a little cruder, more low-brow humor, rougher and more like the movies Chevy was doing at the time, but George was a classy guy and he wasn’t going to do that. He does what he does. He made the movie classy, and I think a lot of Chevy’s fans were let down because it wasn’t as raucous and vulgar as they might have expected."
Vincent Canby, in his review for The New York Times, called the film "good-natured even when it's not funny," and went on to say that its best jokes are recycled from other, better, films. In a negative review for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Wilmington said "Funny Farm – a weak-fish-out-of-water comedy about a New York City couple who see their rural paradise turned into a rustic hell–is a movie with a doubly deceptive title. This movie isn't about a farm, and it isn't very funny, either." In a staff review, Variety said "As pleasant yuppie comedies go, this is about par."
However, film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were strong champions of the film, praising it on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Ebert called the film a "small miracle," while Siskel said it was "the best film Chase has made" and compared it to the films of Preston Sturges.
The film grossed $25 million on a $19 million budget, making it a modest box office success, but was seen as an overall disappointment especially considering Chevy Chase's popularity as a comic actor in the 1980s with a handful of box office hits. It was released during a very busy summer movie season. The Tom Hanks comedy Big, now considered a classic comedy, opened the very same day and became one of the year's highest grossing films while Crocodile Dundee II was in its second week of release and also became one of the year's biggest hits. Other releases throughout the summer including Coming to America, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Die Hard all were very high-grossing films giving Funny Farm a slim chance of high box office results in comparison. Screenwriter Jeffrey Boam has also said he felt the film did not do as well as hoped because Chase was known at the time for doing edgier comedies such as National Lampoon's Vacation and his fans were expecting similar humor from this film as a result.
With the success of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation the following year, Funny Farm did eventually gain a cult following and is now regarded by critics and Chevy Chase fans as one of if not his very best films.
- Ferrante, A.C. (May 1, 2013). "Exclusive Interview:The Last Crusade of Jeffrey Boam". Assignment X. Midnight Productions. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
- "Funny Farm (1988)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 17, 2018.
- Canby, Vincent (June 3, 1988). "Review/Film; Rusticicity For Chevy Chase". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
- Wilmington, Michael (June 3, 1988). "'Funny Farm' Needs More Cultivation". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
- Variety Staff (December 31, 1987). "Funny Farm". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
- Ebert, Roger (June 3, 1988). "Funny Farm". RogerEbert.com. Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
- Siskel, Gene (June 12, 1988). "Chevy Mettle". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
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