Kevin James probably wouldn't have a career as big and as successful if Chris Farley had not have died on December 18, 1997 at the age of 33. And Farley would be alive today had he not been addicted to various narcotics, which also killed his hero John Belushi. With the release of every new James film, we start thinking of what might have been if Farley lived and overcame his addictions.
Would have Belushi been doing television by the '90s, slogging it out next to Tim Allen and Ray Romano, with a guest role as the jovial plumber on Tupac Shakur's family sitcom Us Against The World?
James' The Zookeeper hits theaters today around the country, and it quite frankly looks like Ben Stiller's Night At The Museum pictures but with more farting monkeys (love 'em) and absolutely no educational value. We could see kids learning about some history with Museum at least.
Ever since I saw I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry in 2007, the Farley and James connection has been haunting me, because I know that Adam Sandler and Farley would have been a great team as the years went on. It's the musical equivalent of mourning the loss of a John Lennon or Jimi Hendrix MTV Unplugged episode, but with, yet again, more farting.
This isn't to say I hate James as an actor or person. His stand-up comedy was passable, Tim Allen-type stuff, and King Of Queens is a sick pleasure in the "Fat Guy/Hot Wife" genre and was made worth the time for Jerry Stiller. His film material seems to be mainly the problem, but you can't sit there and say that Farley wouldn't have been a better mall cop than James.
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As for Farley, at the time of his death he had all but wrapped voice work on Shrek, but after he died his vocals were scrapped in lieu of Mike Meyers, who decided make him Scottish. I think Farley would have no doubt took a dip into dramedy too, something which James hasn't done unless you count the last few episodes of Queens or this year's The Dilemma.
The dream of a Matt Foley film died in 1997 too. Sadly, we would never get to pay six bucks to In A Van Down By The River, which would feature a predictable retooling of Neil Young's "Down By The River".
In the end I guess, James is more attractive than Farley ever was, and the inner hidden bear inside me is beaming in agreement. You can accept James as a leading man because he looks like most grown men in America and has the same comedic timing. Farley, not so much, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have had a career surge like Phillip Seymour Hoffman's.
Maybe I just miss Chris Farley too much. Man, that would have been one hell of a live-action version of The Family Guy...