With great overtones of Mel Brooks and Monty Python, this film tells
the story of two explorers, Leslie Edwards (Friends's Matthew Perry)
and Bartholomew Hunt (Farley), who tried in the early part of the 19th century
to be the first to reach the Pacific Ocean via the Northwest Passage. Although
we know that famous voyage was actually made by Lewis and Clark, this is
the tale of their competition, a ragtag group of misfits with various mental
and physical problems, headed by a conceited fame-seeker and his trailwise
but boorish partner.
As expected, there is little here but sight gags and low humor, but if
you're in the mood (and I must have been), it has its laugh-out-loud moments.
There is no escaping that Farley was funny at almost everything he did;
much like Jim Carrey, his energy is so pervasive that if you gave him a
phone book to read, he could make you laugh. As long as you were not too
worried that he would have a coronary. Perry also has a few good bits, but
he is obviously a distant second banana. Additional appearances by people
like Eugene Levy and Kevin Dunn, and others, add to the hilarity, although
many of the jokes fall flat. Even Farley has a few misfires, but not many.
Along the way the guys run into many ridiculous predicaments, like inadvertently
riding their little two-man canoe over a huge waterfall, and getting in
a serious grudge match with an American bald eagle. And always just ahead
of them is the party of Meriwether Lewis and Wilford Clark, threatening
to make our heroes a mere footnote to history.
Written by Mark Nutter, Tom Wolfe, and Boyd Hale, the screenplay implies
that Edwards and Hunt actually beat the famous pair, a rather bold
rewriting of history, but no one expects a script like this to be historically
accurate. The PG-13 rating is mainly because of some mildly foul language,
sexual innuendo, and generally grotesque humor. What little violence there
is, is of the cartoon variety.
I doubt if anyone ever expected Chris Farley to win an Academy Award. But it is a fitting tribute to him that his last outing, while not a great work of American cinema, can provide a good dose of chuckles, and more than a few belly laughs. ***
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