Christopher Guest's Almost Hereos (1998)

Christopher Guest's Almost Hereos (1998)

Even the most famous artists of your generation have entered into some practice that’s resulted in a lowly, lowly product – one that’ll probably be pretty embarrassing to the principals involved during the following years. Bob Dylan released a Christmas themed album last winter and Orson Wells attempted to continue his career subsequent to Citizen Kane. There’re countless examples of missteps from some of the twentieth century masters. Christopher Guest hasn’t attained the same place in culture as the two aforementioned folks, but the director, writer and actor certainly turned in a bummer of a feature with Almost Heroes.

Coming just two years after Guest’s first major triumph since This is Spinal Tap, Waiting for Guffman introduced a number of tropes the director would revisit in later work. Some of that gets worked into Almost Heroes, but the narrative structure of the 1998 comedy is detached from the mockumentary work Guest is primarily known for.

Staring Chris Farley and a poorly cast Matthew Perry, then still amidst his Friends heyday, the comedy isn’t constructed out of a series of interviews. Instead it’s a rather traditional buddy picture. Too bad the performances are all pretty hollow and the film doesn’t possess a true climax. In the same way that Guest’s other work concludes with an ending that viewers were aware of from the outset – in some cases dog show championships or premiers of plays – Almost Heroes ends with Farley and Perry’s expedition reaching the West coast. It was the stated purpose of the entire narrative, thusly not too surprising.

Often, it doesn’t behoove one to pay attention to ratings systems that websites post, but the fact that Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 15% speaks volumes about its quality. Despite that fact that it seems no one really enjoyed the feature, it counts as Farley’s final, major role in a film. That, obviously, doesn’t make watching the film an easier, or even a necessity. But it’s a nice footnote, I suppose.

Either way, while the headliners wonders through various forced conflicts, a few of Guest’s pervasive character tropes show up. In each of his major works, which this film shouldn’t be considered, there’s a married couple dealing with either the infidelity or promiscuous nature of the female half of the duo. Here it’s a bit more convoluted as Eugene Levy’s character, a French translator, somehow acquires a beautiful Indian woman as his wife and or slave. When he’s challenged by an explorer of some ill repute, Levy’s character splits, leaving his woman to fend for herself. And since Perry’s fey character is interested, it all works out for the narrative.

It’d be hard to recount some shtick that actually works out, though. And if one were to try really hard to come up with something, it certainly wouldn’t have anything to do with Perry. Farley getting attacked by an eagle three or four times is pretty amusing. But even that repeated gag gets tired after a few tries. The one saving grave to this whole mess is the fact that Guest didn’t pen the script. That’s about it, though.