Almost Heroes



There's a difference between a stupid movie and a movie populated by stupid characters, and director Christopher Guest shows that distinction with Almost Heroes. Guest (Waiting for Guffman, The Big Picture) has constructed a broad parody of frontier-western films and historical documentaries while still staying true to their peculiar conventions.

During the opening credits -- a collection of vintage maps and landscape paintings over composer Jeffery CJ Vanston's dead-on musical themes (regal and majestic one minute, achingly sentimental the next) -- Almost Heroes could almost be an earnest PBS miniseries. Then Leslie Edwards (Matthew Perry) and Bartholomew Hunt (Chris Farley) enter the scene.

Edwards, an ultra-fussy dandy "who knows how to buy the finest books," wants to become famous by mapping out the great "undiscovered" Northwest Territory for President Thomas Jefferson. The only problem is that soon-to-be famous American explorers Lewis and Clark have a two-week head start on him. So he recruits the slovenly, crass, heavy-drinking Hunt as his guide. After their sad sack crew -- including none-too-competent French translator, Guy Fontenot (Eugene Levy), and his distractingly beautiful Indian companion, Shaquinna (Lisa Barbuscia) -- is assembled, their journey commences.

It's a clear case of the dumb leading the dumber, but while this period comedy (originally titled Edwards and Hunt: The First American Roadtrip) isn't exactly fresh, director Guest molds it into a lively diversion.

While a bug-eyed and effete Matthew Perry is blandly annoying (he's also awkwardly positioned as the straight man), the late Chris Farley seems blissfully happy in his buckskin. Here, he found a character and a time period perfectly suited to his comedy of excess (the joyful expression he displays while chug-a-lugging whiskey manages to be both infectious and poignant).

If Almost Heroes often seems like a gag-driven, big-screen version of "F Troop," that's because its writers (Mark Nutter, Tom Wolfe and Boyd Hale) are all veterans of television sitcoms.

As Edwards and Hunt race haplessly their more capable rivals Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean, Manifest Destiny has never looked quite so pointless.

Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.