[Screen It]


(1998) (Chris Farley, Matthew Perry) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate Minor Mild Minor Moderate
Mild None Mild None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Moderate *Minor None Minor Moderate

Comedy: Two bumbling explorers hope to beat Lewis & Clarke to the Pacific Ocean as they race across America's western frontier in the early 1800's.
In 1804, Lewis & Clarke have set out to discover America's western frontier. Unbeknownst to them, another expedition has been commissioned and is led by the stuffily aristocratic Leslie Edwards (MATTHEW PERRY). Knowing he needs a man familiar with the territory to lead the way, Leslie hires Bartholomew Hunt (CHRIS FARLEY), a hyped-up tracker, along with a rag tag crew of misfits, including Guy Fontenot (EUGENE LEVY), an interpreter who doesn't speak any other languages. Heading off toward the Pacific Ocean, they encounter many obstacles such as wild bears, Indian tribes, and a group of Spanish conquistadors led by Hidalgo (KEVIN DUNN), as they try to beat the other expedition team to the west coast.
If they're fans of Farley ("Beverly Hills Ninja," "Tommy Boy") or Perry (TV's "Friends"), they just might.
For crude humor and nudity.
  • MATTHEW PERRY plays a high society explorer who must put up with the rag tag crew accompanying him across the frontier.
  • CHRIS FARLEY plays a tracker known for his drinking problems and overreactive behavior.


    OUR TAKE: 1 out of 10
    Whenever a major studio doesn't screen a movie for the press, that's usually a clear-cut sign that it's probably not going to be any good. That, coupled with the appearance of a cast member from the TV show "Friends" (statistically proven to almost always meaning a death sentence for box office potential) spells certain doom for any new release and "Almost Heroes" is a textbook example of that. Featuring hackneyed and trite material, slipshod writing and overzealous but bad acting, this disaster of a release will only be remembered for being comedian/actor Chris Farley's last major picture.

    That's a shame, and even Farley's die-hard fans will probably be disappointed with this movie. I've never been crazy about Farley's films ("Beverly Hills Ninja," "Black Sheep," etc...), but I often found his work on TV's "Saturday Night Live" quite funny. It just seems that no one could create a role to best show off his talents -- especially beyond the three minute skit -- a fact that many of his "SNL" cohorts also discovered as they tried to make it on the big screen. While Farley found some limited success in his pictures, most were bad and didn't allow him to expand beyond his hyped-up, sweat covered, thespian "explosions." This release certainly doesn't fall far from that norm.

    If your idea of funny is watching Farley hang from a noose, eat like a pig, let liquids spill down his face and make wild exaggerated animal sounds and gestures when not comically overacting to the extreme, then you may find some enjoyment from this picture. In one scene where Matthew Perry's character is trying to teach Farley's how to read (they only get to the upper and lowercase "A's"), Farley stops him, grabs and bang his head and loudly exclaims, "Do you want my head to explode?" (My stomach still hurts from laughing so hard. Wait a minute. Come to think of it, that was probably from too much popcorn)

    A trio of first-time big screen writers, Mark Nutter, Tom Wolfe and Boyd Hale (all writers on the early 1990's TV sitcom "Nurses"), must have slapped this baby together over a weekend of heavy drinking (and director Christopher Guest ["Waiting For Guffman"] must have been under similar influences), for its laughs are few and far between, and the plot is about as banal as they come. They've delivered the typical ragtag crew whose members are not much more than idiots (they continually fire a barrage of gun and cannon fire at a squirrel on a river bank and one proudly talks of eating sheep excrement in his own plum pudding), and a plot that's shockingly listless for being a story about explorers.

    When they finally get around to something exciting happening, it's telegraphed from so far away you can see it in the parking lot when you drive up to the theater. For instance, after passing Lewis & Clarke's team that's portaging around a river, there's no question about what this team will encounter down the river. Then there's a long, repetitive bit about Hunt needing to find and return an eagle's egg to save Edwards' life that eventually pays off in one of the weakest punch lines I've ever witnessed.

    Even moments that could have been funny had they been taken to the extreme are clearly missed. One of the crew members begins losing body parts (first his ear is bitten off by a jealous man, then his leg is taken by a bear) and he's so carefree about this that one begins to wonder how far the filmmakers are going to take this bit. I imagined something akin to the Black Knight scene from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" where the knight responds to losing an arm, and then a leg, etc... by stating, "It's just a flesh wound." Alas, such clever humor is nowhere to be found here and that moment is wasted after what appeared to be a buildup of at least something.

    The performances don't fare much better either. As earlier stated, Farley gives his standard, over the top, manic performance (that surprisingly didn't kill him via a heart attack before his drug overdose that did), but he surprisingly looks rather uninterested in the proceedings during his calmer moments. Matthew Perry ("Fools Rush In" and TV's "Friends") tries to play the straight man to the events unfolding around him, but his acting is wooden, not funny, and his period "accent" is too obvious to be believable. Other performers, such as Eugene Levy (from the TV show "SCTV") and Kevin Dunn ("Godzilla") are similarly just as bad.

    Granted, I understand that this isn't supposed to be Shakespeare or even anything approaching sophisticated comedy. Even considering the low level at which it's trying to operate, however, it's still a really bad movie. While some may consider watching Farley's illiteracy funny (as he tries to read various signs in several painfully slow moments) or moments such as a would-be dentist standing on a chair trying to pull out one of his teeth with pliers or some elderly Indians peeing in the woods as humorous, most will find the material horribly unimaginative and anything but funny. Unfortunately, we'll never know if Farley might have become a better comedic actor, and it's a sad state of affairs that this was his last chance. We give "Almost Heroes" a minimal 1 out of 10.

    Here's a quick look at the film's content. Some sexual talk is present and is the basis for some of the film's humor. Additionally, we see some brief bits of nudity as Edwards happens to see a man and woman bathing. The standard slapstick violence found in Farley's other films also occurs here and consists of some fights and other bits of violence. Profanity is mild with 4 "s" words and an assortment of other expletives and phrases, and Chris Farley's character excessively drinks liquor when given the chance. Since some kids (who are big Farley fans and want to see him in his last role) will want to see this film, we suggest that you examine the content before allowing them to do so.

  • We learn that Hunt has a drinking problem and is scheduled to hang for drunk and disorderly conduct.
  • People have wine at a reception and a man brings Hunt some whiskey that he quickly downs (and then grabs the bottle and does the same to it).
  • Edwards and some of his crew have ale in a tavern.
  • Hunt has a drinking duel with Hidalgo and his men (resulting in all of them passing out from drinking too much). Before he passes out, Hunt tells Edwards, "Now you'll agree, drinking has its benefits."
  • Fontenot spits out another crew member's ear after accusing the second man of staring at his woman. We see the bitten off ear several times, but it's never bloody.
  • Hunt picks up a pile of buffalo excrement and joyfully smells it several times.
  • Hidalgo threatens a man in a tavern with his sword. When he leaves, he accidentally slices the man's throat and we see just a quick shot of some blood.
  • We see just a tiny bit of blood in the corner of Hunt's mouth as well as on the end of a tooth that's just been pulled from his mouth.
  • We hear the sound of some old Indians peeing in the woods.
  • A large amount of eagle excrement lands on Hunt's face.
  • Fontenot brings along a woman he claims is his property (ie. He bought her), and Edwards is accompanied by a black man who acts as his servant (and later claims to be his slave).
  • Edwards says that a relationship between him and a particular woman wouldn't work out because they're from different cultures, and that he's refined and she's primitive (and responds to animal instincts).
  • Hidalgo has both for being a ruthless explorer who takes (or tries to take) whatever he wants.
  • Some townspeople try to hang Hunt for drunk and disorderly conduct, but he doesn't die and Edwards then rescues him.
  • A bear enters the crew's camp, walks around, and then drags a man away by the leg.
  • A scene where the crew goes through the rapids and then over a high waterfall may be suspenseful to preschoolers, but probably no one else (the same goes for the above).
  • Rifles: Carried by guards/soldiers and used in other scenes. See "Violence" for details.
  • Revolver: Fired by Hunt into the air to get the attention of their crew.
  • Rifles/Cannon: Repeatedly fired by the crew at a "dangerous animal" (a squirrel) on a river bank.
  • Swords: Used by Hidalgo and his crew to fight or threaten others. See "Violence" for details.
  • Phrases: "Dong" (for male genitals), "Kiss my hairy buttocks," "Horse's ass," "Turd," "Whore," "Oaf," "Go to hell," "Bastards," "Shut up" and "Losers."
  • A woman walks up and spits on Hunt.
  • One scene involves some town folk preparing to hang Hunt. They do kick away the stool and Hunt hangs there by the noose, but doesn't die. Since this is played for laughs, some kids might get the wrong idea about this.
  • Hunt belches quite loudly after quickly downing a bottle of whiskey (that spills down his cheeks).
  • A crew member talks about putting pieces of sheep excrement into his brother's plum pudding that his sibling then ate. The man later explains, however, that he has no brother and that he ate it himself.
  • Hunt purposefully smacks himself on the head.
  • Hunt picks up a pile of buffalo excrement and joyfully smells it several times.
  • Hunt has a drinking duel with Hidalgo and his men (resulting in all of them passing out from drinking too much). Before he passes out, Hunt tells Edwards, "Now you'll agree, drinking has its benefits."
  • None.
  • A mild amount of comically suspenseful music accompanies a few scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 4 "s" words, 1 slang term for male genitals ("dong"), 7 damns, 6 hells, 1 S.O.B., 1 ass, and 7 uses of "Oh God," 5 of "Good God," 4 of "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "G-damn," "Good Lord," "God Almighty," "Oh dear God" and "My God."
  • Although we don't see it, Hunt watches some pigs mating (and we hear the sounds) and later comments that he's paid good money to see that on a stage.
  • Hunt mentions a "whore who could do things with her one good arm that would make you forget about that thing on her neck..."
  • While looking through his telescope at the night sky, Edwards happens to see a woman bathing in a body of water. We twice see the top of her butt crack as well as the side of her breasts. Moments later, we see Fontenot's upper butt crack. Hunt then says to Edwards, "You want to watch her alone so that you can shake hands with Ben Franklin. You know, polish the pewter..." Edwards then comments that his servant does that for him (double entendre for masturbation).
  • After Edwards asks Hunt if he's ever been in love, Hunt responds, "I've had my head under a petticoat or two."
  • A man confronts the crew in a small town and tells them that he understands their craving for food, drink and the companionship of young women. Fontenot says that his woman "pleasures" him whenever he wants, and Edwards claims that he's abstaining from such behavior (causing Fontenot to ask him if he has a "drippy dong"). That man then takes some of the men off to meet his "ladies," but they turned out to be straw filled "mannequins." Even so, one of the men later comes out of a room after an "encounter" with one of them and says, "I swear that's never happened to me before."
  • As Hidalgo is about to take Fontenot's woman, Edwards says "Take me instead." Hidalgo then tells Edwards to stand like a woman ("Put your hands on your hip"), but then decides he rather keep her.
  • Although we don't see anything, a crew member supposedly smokes and ignites his straw prostitute (see "Sex/Nudity") and then the house they're in.
  • None.
  • The real Lewis & Clarke and their exploration of America.
  • Being a goofy comedy, none of the following is meant to be taken at face value. Nonetheless, it does occur.
  • Some townspeople try to hang Hunt for drunk and disorderly conduct, but he doesn't die and Edwards then rescues him.
  • The crew repeatedly fires their rifles and a cannon at a "dangerous" animal on the river bank (a squirrel that they don't hit).
  • An Indian smacks Edwards and then Hunt, who in turn smacks the Indian and then they exchange smacks several more times.
  • A group of Indians tackles a crew member in some sort of ritual ceremony.
  • Fontenot spits out another crew member's ear after biting it off (after accusing the second man of staring at the woman with him).
  • Hunt purposefully smacks himself on the head.
  • A bear enters the crew's camp, walks around, and then drags a man away by the leg. Later, we see this man without that leg, implying that the bear tore/bit it off.
  • Hidalgo threatens a man in a tavern with his sword. When he leaves, he accidentally slices the man's throat (and we briefly see a little bit of blood).
  • A man preparing to pull one of Hunt's teeth twice hits Hunt on the head with a large mallet (as the anaesthetic) and they crash through a wall as the tooth is finally extracted.
  • A woman smacks Edwards.
  • Hunt fights with an eagle while trying to take its eggs from a nest (and he falls down the tree through the branches).
  • Hunt shoots a wild animal with his gun for food (not seen).
  • Hidalgo shoots and mildly wounds one of the crew members.
  • Hunt and Edwards are forced to run "the gauntlet" where the conquistadors whack them with sticks and they have to run over hot coals.
  • Hunt hits two conquistadors with a log and knocks them unconscious.
  • Hunt, Edwards and several older Indians fight with Hidalgo and his men. They head butt, punch and kick the men as well as hit them in the crotch.
  • Hidalgo and Edwards get into a sword fight.
  • Hunt hits Edwards trying to knock him out (to keep him from doing something dangerous).

  • Reviewed May 29, 1998

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