Director: John Landis
Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short are silent movie stars in the early Hollywood era, before the 20s, and they are already burnouts, having lost their job and having been kicked out of their studio. Down in Mexico, where the real Wild West is still very much alive, a young girl sees one of their movies, and not understanding the medium, thinks they are actual gunslingers. So she writes them an absurdly carefully worded letter to come and fight off local bandits which they interpret as an offer to come and put on a little wild west show. This movie was critically panned when it came out and perhaps deservedly so. I recall one semi-famous incident on the old Johnny Carson tonight show where Chevy Chase out promoting the movie, and also on as a guest at the same time was legendary film critic Roger Ebert. Ebert openly panned the movie in front of Chase while still putting Chevy over for being a very good comedic actor, which made for a very awkward but also amusing situation. I saw this movie as a young child and, as a child with no care or thought to a movie’s critical merits, I really dug it. I recently had a chance to see it again without the blinders of childhood, and no, it is not very good, but it is amusing for what it is, and does not overstay its welcome.
With a little more effort this movie could have been regarded as something maybe in the universe of Blazing Saddles, especially considering the strength of the three stars and Landis directing, but as it is, it’s just a nice little hidden gem for those looking for something to waste an hour and twenty minutes of their life. Unlike A Million Ways to Die in the West, which I disliked, this movie is not needlessly mean spirited or obsessed with fecal matter. There are some gags that don’t work at all, such as a singing bush, and an invisible swordsman, but there are also some fairly amusing moments such as the trio of would be heroes realizing the bad guys they are facing down are not actually “actors” and a good homage to the old campfire sing alongs of the Roy Rogers and Gene Autry era of westerns that my dad idolizes. I watched this movie while staying at the South of the Border suite at the Clinton IL, Sunset Inn. The room was alas, much nicer than the flick.