Almost Heroes

on May 29, 1998 by Christine James
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It would be almost impossible not to eke a few laughs out of a project that pairs such proven comedic talents as stars Chris Farley ("Tommy Boy") and Matthew Perry (TV's "Friends") and director Christopher Guest ("Waiting for Guffman"). Even scripters Mark Nutter, Tom Wolfe and Boyd Hale obviously have a Monty Pythonesque, deadpan-in-the-face-of-the-bizarre bent. But that bent quickly takes a wrong turn into Beavis and Butt-head territory.
Set in the American West in 1804, the story finds prim aristocrat Leslie Edwards (Perry) and boorish tracker Bartholomew Hunt (Farley) on a quest to beat their rivals, Lewis and Clark, to the Pacific Ocean. They acquire the requisite band of rag-tag misfits to help them on their journey, including unscrupulous French explorer Guy Fontenot (Eugene Levy) and his Indian concubine (Lisa Barbuscia, in one of the most trifling and embarrassing female roles known to modern-day cinema). Both Edwards and Hunt seem to have a knack for making enemies on their journey, and as a result, several tussles ensue, providing the opportunity for several instances of groin kicking. One of Edwards and Hunt's crew keeps losing appendages, pointing up the Python influence, but to unfavorable comparison. The most cringe-inducing comic comeuppance the writers cook up is a dewigging and decorseting of a pompous enemy. The only thing more juvenile and trite they could have come up with would be a bird-excrement-in-the-face joke. That one's saved for the climax.
Everyone seems to be trying gamely here, but the writing thwarts at every turn. Perhaps if Guest had tapped into his Corky St. Clair persona, the director who brought the (unintentionally) hilarious stage production "Red, White and Blaine!" to life in "Waiting for Guffman," "Almost Heroes" would have been almost funny. Starring Chris Farley, Matthew Perry and Eugene Levy. Written by Mark Nutter & Tom Wolfe & Boyd Hale. Directed by Christopher Guest. Produced by Denise Di Novi. A Warner release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for crude humor and nudity. Running time: 90 min.
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