Movie Review: Wagons East (1994)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1994 John Candy comedy that also stars Richard Lewis and Ed Lauter.

Synopsis: A group of Wild West settlers realize they made a mistake and decide they want to take a wagon train back to their hometowns in the east. They hire a cowboy with a checkered past to be their wagon trail master and, almost immediately, he makes decisions that cause them to question his leadership skills. To make matters worse, a businessman, worried about how news of the travelers’ journey will cause the profitable western land rush to taper off, decides to do everything he can to stop them.

It has been a long while since I’ve seen this movie (one of John Candy’s last films) and, to be honest, I wasn’t really making much of an effort to find time to watch it. However, I had a chance to do just that last night while waiting for the kids to get ready for bed and my wife to get her shower out of the way before watching another film with her. Unfortunately, after watching it again, I honestly don’t think it is as good as I remembered.

The main storyline, about the settlers deciding to call it quits and head home, isn’t that terrible. In fact, that part, in itself, actually is somewhat funny, especially when the various wagon train members (and their quirks) are introduced and they have to interact with each other. If the movie simply combined that with the inept trail master’s (Candy) buffoonery (I especially loved how he was trying to avoid running into Native Americans and accidentally ended up camping in the middle of their village).

The mistake the writers made was they tried to do too much with the outside characters like John Slade (Lauter) and General Larchmont (Charles Rocket) that were sent to stop the wagon train. While the wagon train characters themselves managed to be somewhat grounded, these characters, in comparison, were almost cartoonish and it just didn’t mesh. If anything, I think the movie would have been considerably better if these characters were much more serious.

Wagons East!

John Candy, Richard Lewis. Candy's final performance, as a broken-down wagonmaster who takes a group of frontierspeople back East. 1994/color/107 min/PG-13/fullscreen.

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Final Opinion

As I said, I did like the overall premise of this film and do feel it would have been a pretty memorable film had the writers not added the cartoon-like villains. Unfortunately, because of their decision to do that, this movie just isn’t anywhere near as good as it could have been.

My Grade: C

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Updated: 12/15/2017, StevenHelmer
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