By Owen Gleiberman
June 12, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT

Almost Heroes

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In the only moment of Almost Heroes (Warner Bros.) that brought a smile to my face, Chris Farley, cast as a 19th-century American frontier explorer (i.e., a big fat sweaty oaf in buckskin), sticks his nose into a buffalo chip, inhales deeply, and declares that a herd of the woolly beasts is roaming but a short distance away. Farley’s partner, played by Matthew Perry, wonders how he could possibly know that simply by sniffing dung. Oh, Farley replies, sniffing dung has nothing to do with it; he can see the herd plainly from where he’s crouching (cut to a shot of a field of bison). He then grins blissfully and reburies his nose in the chip. That’s a classic Farley moment: infantile, giggly-gross, nakedly masochistic in its assertion that, as if it weren’t enough to see him stuffing his face or making brain-dead comments at top volume, Farley’s character might also harbor an unashamed fondness for buffalo chips.

Sadly, most of Farley’s movies were buffalo chips. Almost Heroes, the last one in which he starred before his death, gives off the discomfiting reek of desperation. A Lewis and Clark send-up, with Farley and Perry as the famous explorers’ clodhopper rivals (Perry plays effete ninny to Farley’s monster slob), it’s as bad as any comedy I’ve seen in the post-Animal House era, right down there with the worst of Dan Aykroyd and the scripts Pauly Shore must have turned up his nose at. How could director Christopher Guest, the puckish satirical jester who starred in This Is Spinal Tap and made the sublimely funny Waiting for Guffman, have reduced himself to staging gags such as Farley’s slap-fest with hostile Injuns, Eugene Levy (as a nasty pirate) speaking in a zany French accent, or Farley stealing an egg from an eagle’s nest, punching out the bird, and then falling to the ground with an epic thud? Almost Heroes goes thud too. Despite his compulsion to trash everything in his midst, including himself, Chris Farley deserved better. F — OG

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Almost Heroes STARRING Chris Farley Matthew Perry RATED PG-13 91 MINUTES

Almost Heroes

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