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Kids on Film

Almost Heroic: Farley Farewell

June 04, 1998|LYNN SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In "Almost Heroes," two fools (Matthew Perry and the late Chris Farley) lead a motley crew of 19th century losers across the country, trying to beat Lewis and Clark to the Pacific. Rated PG-13

*

It may not be Chris Farley's best movie, but young fans who paid to see him in his final starring role were not disappointed. The comic was as big, loud, manic and gross as ever.

"It was classic Chris Farley. I thought it was really, really, really funny," said Hillary Adams, 17, of Irvine, a self-described "big, fat fan" of the 300-pound comic who died last year at age 33. As uneducated, unwashed frontiersman Bartholomew Hunt, Farley yells and shudders his way through the wilderness, in contrast to the skinny and snobbish Leslie Edwards played by Perry (from TV's "Friends").

Almost everything made her laugh out loud, from Farley's vulgarities as he is about to be hanged for getting drunk at a party and forcing a military officer to waltz with him, to Farley sniffing buffalo droppings, getting a tooth yanked by a taxidermist or crashing through tree branches trying to capture an eagle's egg.

Hillary realized, of course, that she was about the only one laughing in the theater. "There were a lot of older people in the audience that wouldn't have gotten what [Farley] was trying to do," she said, explaining that you have to be under 17, or a hard-core Farley fan, to appreciate this sort of thing.

Brothers Mike and Ryan McDonough, 12 and 9, of Mission Viejo, saw the movie because they had nothing better to do. They chuckled but gave the movie a B. Farley was funnier, they thought, in "Tommy Boy." Perry, they thought, was incidental.

Though Farley dominated the movie, Adam Brown, 12, of Irvine, found humor in some of the other characters: a wild-eyed French translator who chews off a man's ear for looking at his Native American slave; the idiot who keeps the ear and tries to communicate through it; and a silly Spanish conquistador in love with his own hair. In one episode, the pair is saved by four senior citizen Native Americans. Few seemed bothered by Farley's intermittent backwoods accent, the amateurish sets and costumes or the lapses in humor.

Some parts struck a somber note for those who knew that Farley had lived a life of hard drinking and died of an accidental drug overdose. In one scene, Bartholomew wins a drinking contest but before passing out repeats "Drinking has its benefits."

"It was totally upsetting," Hillary said. "I don't know what it shows exactly, but it was scary to see because it was sort of like his real life. It is terrible the way he did die."

*

PARENTS' PERSPECTIVE: The movie is rife with crude jokes and situations, and the lovely Native American captive (Lisa Barbuscia) is shown nude from the back. But dad and Farley fan Steve Brown of Irvine said, "They keep it pretty toned down, so it's mostly the gags and stunts that are geared to make kids laugh. I don't see anything too bad about it."

Brown and Adam have been to all Farley's movies and agreed "Almost Heroes" can't rival "Tommy Boy" for laughs. Brown said he had hoped the movie would be "pretty good" since it was Farley's last, and, Brown added, it was.

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