'Wagons East!': reason enough to head west

August 26, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Staff Writer

I don't remember exactly what it was that killed the comedian John Candy last year, but "Wagons East!" -- Candy's last film -- might have been at least partly responsible. This is a dog of a movie. Wait a minute -- it's even worse than that: It's a dog of a shaggy dog movie. This comedy is not only awful, its basic material meanders so mindlessly that you wonder what the joke is supposed to be. "Wagons East!" has about as much shape as Candy's potato sack of a body.

As a woman behind me said at the preview I attended: "Is this a movie?"

She may have thought that "Wagons East!" was the longest trailer she had ever seen, but the truth is that even a genius-editor would find it nearly impossible to construct an entertaining preview from "Wagons East!" The basic comic premise of the film is that if the Wild West was as awful as it has been portrayed in countless Westerns, then its settlers would want to return to the civilization of the East.

Candy plays John Harlow, a wagon master with a skeleton in his closet, who leads the wagon train from the town of Prosperity in the Arizona territory back to St. Louis. The cast of characters includes an ex-surgeon (Richard Lewis), who's lost his nerve with a scalpel; a banker (Robert Picardo) who's sick of having his bank emptied by robbers; a bar girl (Ellen Greene) who's tired of being paid off in worthless IOUs and fool's gold; a rare-book collector with an alternate lifestyle (John C. McGinley) who can't abide the West's lack of culture; and six dimwitted brothers who share a mail-order bride (Robin McKee), but who are actually besotted with a lovely dairy cow.

The jokes tend to be watered-down versions of the tasteless kind that enlivened the "Naked Gun" movies and the early films of Mel Brooks.

'Wagons East!'

Starring John Candy, Richard Lewis and John C. McGinley

Directed by Peter Markle

Released by TriStar

Rated PG-13

* 1/2

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