Almost Heroes

1998, PG-13, 92 min. Directed by Christopher Guest. Starring Matthew Perry, Chris Farley, Eugene Levy.

REVIEWED By Russell Smith, Fri., June 5, 1998

Oh, bitter irony! Christopher Guest, the great satirist of crap artists (he wrote or co-wrote This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman, and The Big Picture)) has joined their ranks. And he can't even blame it all on the late Chris Farley – though it's certainly hard to imagine many contexts in which the hyperthyroidal leviathan could've been expected to be a net plus. As with many duff comedies, the concept of Almost Heroes is actually pretty sound. It seems that early 19th-century explorers Lewis & Clark weren't the only bold spirits trying to blaze a trail to the virgin sands of the West Coast. Racing them all the way were Hunt & Edwards (Farley and Matthew Perry), a duo fully their equal in all respects save for intelligence, courage, navigational skills, and personal hygiene. Friends veteran Perry looks comfortable (resigned to his lot?) in his role as the starchy, foppish expedition leader. Not surprising since all he has to muster in the way of thespian skills is double takes and bumfuzzled gaping at the antics of Farley and his other half-witted charges. Still, he does the job with workmanlike competence, if no special flair. Farley, having taken Fat, Wild, and Sweaty about as far as humanly possibly in this movie, probably picked the right time to die. As with most scripts by inexperienced comedy writers (a no-name trio is credited here), the humor is relentlessly gag-oriented. Some of the jokes creep in under the threshold of pothead passability, but most are so jejune they wouldn't draw a titter in a junior high detention hall. Need a more specific characterization of Almost Heroes' humor? Well, imagine a triangulation among the witless scatology of recent Mel Brooks, the intermittently engaging whimsy of Chris Elliott, and the chin-stroking out-thereness of the Miller Lite “Dick” commercials. That's about the best I can do, unless it helps to tell you that the two funniest gags involve a guy who talks into a severed ear and a backwater bordello full of straw-stuffed love dolls. We can only speculate why Guest chose to whiz away his hard-won credibility by directing this irredeemable piece of crap. Some oath of perpetual fealty to all SNL brethren past and present? If that's the case, then surviving alums Guest, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, et al. must be silently, guiltily mouthing thanks to the drug dealer who sold big Chris that last, fateful 8-ball. Call me needlessly cruel if you like, but I believe the amount of time, money, and creative capital Hollywood is pouring into unapologetically wretched knockoffs like Almost Heroes justifies – compels – the full-nuclear critical response. To adapt the phraseology of yet another recently departed American Gonzo Original, “Extremism in the defense of good comedy is no vice.”

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More Christopher Guest Films
For Your Consideration
Although it attempts to skewer Hollywood, this new comedy from Christopher Guest, and his loyal troupe of improv actors doesn’t have even a drop of affection for its characters.

Josh Rosenblatt, Nov. 24, 2006

A Mighty Wind
Christopher Guest and his recurring cast of players give Sixties-era folk music a gentle poke in the ribs.

Marrit Ingman, May 9, 2003

More by Russell Smith
Juwanna Mann

June 28, 2002

Wrong Numbers

June 7, 2002


Almost Heroes, Christopher Guest, Matthew Perry, Chris Farley, Eugene Levy

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