Today on Rockwood Cinema Review, we take a look at Chris Farley’s last feature full-length movie, the 1998 outdoor comedy, Almost Heroes. Chris Farley co-stars along side Matthew Perry (from the television show Friends) as a pair of explorers trying to beat Lewis and Clark to discover the Pacific Ocean. Directed by Christopher Guest (Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman) it also has a strong supporting cast of comedians, including Canada’s own Eugene Levy (who really needs no introduction but SCTV and Schitt’s Creek). The combination of Farley, Perry, Guest and Levy alone sounds like it has all the ingredients for a great comedy. It’s as if you have a ship charted for comedy greatness, all you have to do is steer the ship. What could possibly go wrong? Well, the expedition much like the movie, is at times fraught with problems, sometimes hilarious, sometimes slow and agonizing.
In Almost Heroes, Chris Farley more or less does what Chris Farley did best, here, playing the hilarious, intensely physical, loveable and often maniacal character, Bartholomew Hunt. In contrast, Matthew Perry plays the posh, Leslie Edwards, who hires the rough and tumble Bartholomew as his guide. The movie is your typical, odd couple scenario, where the two are separated by class and social upbringing. As a comedy it’s not bad, with some genuinely funny parts, however the movie meanders a bit near the end.
At times, Almost Heroes is more like a series of comedic vignettes, strung together by a narrative. Its style of comedy is best exemplified in its own terms when Perry’s characters says, “Good Lord! Must you and the others always reduce everything to its crudest terms?” to which Farely’s character replies, “I thought I cleaned it up pretty nicely.”
Almost Heroes is a lowbrow comedy, that begs the question how low can your lowbrow go? We are not talking straight to internet National Lampoon’s bad or one of those parody movies bad (e.g. Disaster Movie (2008) bad. I mean, it’s not all terrible and will mostly appeal to fans of Naked Gun, Cabin Boy and Monty Python (with its heavy Holy Grail vibes), particularly when Bigwell, a member of their entourage, is present. I think Perry definitely drew some inspiration from Chris Elliot’s Cabin Boy in the “Fancy Lads” department. If you understand that reference you will like this movie.
It’s both funny and terrible with lessons in early colonial dentistry, the importance of maintaining hygiene in the great outdoors, and the art of seducing “smoking hot” straw ladies on the road in the great outdoors. But is it an outdoor movie? Well not in the “lake-by-the-cottage” sense but is more like a portage movie with plenty of accompanying scenes like boating down rivers and gathering around campfires. The majority of the filming taking place in locations throughout California and Montana.
Almost Heroes is constantly swinging jokes but not always hitting the mark. However, I think one of the reason why the film receives a lot of negative reviews and critique is that it is just ok and it was Chris Farley’s last movie in an otherwise promising comedic career cut too short. His popular films Black Sheep and Tommy Boy, although the formulaic, underdog story that ex-Saturday Night Live casts are famous for (e.g. Wayne’s World, Billy Madison), were good movies that showcased Chris Farley in his element: so funny but always showed a vulnerable side, that made him so compelling.
It is said that Farley found the scheduling of this film tasking with too much downtime and long days. Instead he favoured the immediacy and intimacy of live theatre from his Second City & Saturday Night Live roots. Unfortunately, at times, it shows. Farley looks tired and not completely himself. That being said, half a Chris Farley still manages to outdo Matthew Perry’s performance, even when Farley is not at his best.
Admittedly, there are some jokes made at the expense of the native community that may offend. Some of it is obviously done, ironically, as a critique of the ignorance of colonial time and we should see the difference. Furthermore, no one is spared in this movie (the elderly, the Irish, the French, the Spanish).
Conclusion – Almost Heroes
Almost Heroes, like its title is almost a hero. With so many comedic forces in one movie there has to be some redeeming value in it. Right? Those who like their comedy really stupid will enjoy it.
No rock & roll references or tunes in this movie, although Chris Farely is the original rock star, who is sorrily missed.
Length: 1h 33m
Best time to watch: Daytime or early nighttime. A comedy that could be easily enjoyed during the day or early evening. Again, for all of it’s LOLs, it lulls near the end, so maybe not too late.
Watch the entire movie below! (For as long as it stays up)