‘Wagons East’ Review: John Candy’s Last Ride

Posted in The Screening Room by - July 17, 2015

Wagons East is known for a couple of things: being the film that John Candy died during the shooting of (due to a heart attack) and generally being considered a terrible film. I knew neither of these facts during the film, so I’m not sure if they would have changed how I viewed the movie. The film is a clear satire of the western genre, with the whole premise relying on the fact that the settlers have given up on the west and decide to move back east. Led by Phil Taylor (Richard Lewis), a caravan of settlers rally around the bumbling alcoholic wagon master, Harlow (John Candy), as he leads them away from the west, towards St. Louis. Of course, an evil rail company is trying to prevent them from moving because the more people that move west, the more money the company receives from the government and mishaps ensue. 

The cast is relatively impressive, although John Candy doesn’t do anything particularly notable. There is no denying that Wagons East is a film relying heavily on dumb humor, which there is plenty of. You have every kind of stereotype from westerns, from the prostitute with the heart of gold, to the assassin doing his best Clint Eastwood knockoff impression trying to stop the caravan from going east. Richard Lewis isn’t particularly believable as someone living in the wild west, and John C. McGinley’s homosexual bookseller is horribly underutilized throughout the film, although he gets the film’s best scene to himself. I appreciated some of the barbs at the western tropes, but I realize that nothing in Wagons East would be considered highbrow, and it is filled with dick and other bodily function jokes. The story is shallow, but there were enough gags to keep me entertained throughout the trip.

Overall, Wagons East stands as a big and dumb western comedy that relies on less than sophisticated humor. If you stand to be a general fan of satirical work and westerns, it’s worth a viewing, especially to see John Candy’s last filmed role (even if it’s hardly his best). Not the complete disaster it was declared to be during its original release, Wagons East is a perfectly functional western satire.

Final Say: Watch It

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He's a native Texan (YEE-HAW) who loves everything Michael Bay has ever touched. When he's not blogging, he's working on his mobile app, BoxHopp, or tinkering with his fantasy football lineups.
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