"Just Say No"
ALMOST HEROES is an alleged comedy about two unknown, incompetent explorers trying to beat the famous Lewis and Clarke to the Pacific Ocean in 1804. Starring Chris Farley and Matthew Perry, it's a crude, idiotic movie filled with hedonistic characters, with little or no redeeming moral value.
One of the oldest traditions of film comedy is the concept of the individual trying to cope within society. Charlie Chaplin operated in this tradition, as did Buster Keaton, Lucille Ball, W.C. Fields, Bob Hope, the underrated Harold Lloyd, and countless others. You can see this same tradition in TV situation comedies, from the aforementioned Miss Ball to Jackie Gleason’s Ralph Kramden and the characters from SEINFELD. In this tradition, each actor supplies his own persona. The comedy usually comes in the way that the persona deals with the unique challenges he or she faces. For instance, Ralph Kramden is often trying to get rich so he can support his wife Alice, while Lucy is often coming up with some harebrained scheme to gain attention. If successful, that persona becomes instantly recognizable. That doesn’t mean the persona is funny, however.
That was just the problem with the career of the late Chris Farley, who launched his career by playing a boisterous, awkward fat man on Saturday Night Live. Farley was able to create a highly recognizable persona, but the persona was not very funny. Mindless repetition and lack of sustained creativity in the challenges he faced made many of his skits and films fall flat. He never seemed to know how to build his comedy to a funny, much less hilarious, climax. Farley’s new film ALMOST HEROES, finished before he died, is not an exception to that rule. It is filled with stupid sight gags and dumb jokes, many of which include crude or foul language and center around vulgar topics such as masturbation or voyeurism. Often, there is no sustained buildup to the joke. When there is, the punch line or sight gag is unworthy of the buildup either because it is so thin or because it is so obvious.
ALMOST HEROES is set in 1804. Farley plays Bartholomew Hunt, a veteran tracker whose expertise is more legend than reality. Matthew Perry stars as Leslie Edwards, a vain blowhard who asks Hunt to lead a bickering and bumbling crew of misfits and miscreants to beat the famous explorers Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean. The strange group faces bears, rapids, sickness, a crazed Spanish explorer named Hidalgo, and their own stupidity. At one point, Hunt challenges Hidalgo and his men to a drinking contest. At another point, he has to search for an eagle’s egg so that the Indian maiden accompanying the group can create a medicine to cure Edwards’ fever. In between these two lame sequences are idiotic jokes about sheep dung, masturbation and the alleged owner of a house of prostitution that is filled only with ragdolls stuffed with straw.
Making a bad situation worse, there are no strong moral lessons in ALMOST HEROES, unlike Farley’s first and most successful film with David Spade, TOMMY BOY. Neither Hunt nor Edwards are particularly likable characters. They risk their lives to save each other’s life during the movie, but there’s no real chemistry between them in the script to make an audience care. ALMOST HEROES is not an almost failure, it is an absolute failure. Just say no to this one.
(PaPa, B, LL, V, S, N, AA, M) Moderately pagan worldview with juvenile sexual humor & a couple minor moral elements; 10 obscenities, two profanities & six vulgarities or crudities; mild action violence & pratfalls including man biting another man's ear off while out of sight & bear attack; juvenile references to prostitution & masturbation & indication that Frenchman has bought woman as sex slave without benefit of marriage; scenes of drunkenness used for humor; and, lying & kidnapping.