Rated: PG for some mild obscenities. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: May 20, 1994 Released by: Warner Brothers
The western has returned and we've been treated to good, serious westerns (Tombstone), bad westerns (Bad Girls), and now we have the comedy western.
The film is based on the popular TV show that ran from 1957-1962, and starred James Garner as Brett Maverick. Mel Gibson steps in as the affable gambler and classy Garner stars as retired Sheriff Zane Cooper.
Jodie Foster rounds out the trio as Annabelle, a poker-playing lass with sticky fingers, who latches onto the nearest bulging wallet.
The pot involves Brett and Annabelle trying to scrape up enough money to by into a big poker tournament held on a riverboat owned by James Coburn.
As Brett travels around trying to get the money to enter, it seems everyone that he runs into owes him money, including a hip Indian chief, played by Graham Greene. Short of a little cash himself, he and his small tribe stage some "authentic" Indian culture scenes for a rich Russian duke. The sequence is very funny, and Greene milks it for all it's worth.
It's a little difficult to pinpoint Maverick's character. Two times he's heroic, at others, he's referred to as "spineless," and he also flip-flops form being handy with his gun, to being clumsy with it.
It's good to see Foster lightening up her image a bit as Maverick's girlfriend. Her coquettish, flirty Annabelle is quite a refreshing change for her.
Gibson, on the other hand, seems to be playing the same character from his Lethal Weapon films. He's added a cowboy hat and white ruffled shirt, but the boyish grin and cutesy banter is the same, and he overdoes it a bit. Garner, Foster and he carry on with put-downs and petty bickering until it gets to be tiresome. Thankfully, the second half of the film settles down to business and the name calling ends.
Director Richard Donner has added quite a few old TV western stars and country western singers in cameo spots, and it's fun trying to pick them out.
There's enough runaway stagecoaches, romance, con games and fist fights to please the pickiest filmgoer. If you like your westerns with a wink and a smile, take the family and have a roaring good time.