Making the Grades
It's a terrible thing to say, but if it were not for the death of John Candy during the production of this movie, it would have been even more of a flop. I am certain the curiosity of seeing just what kind of a film could be glued together after the loss of a lead actor was enough to give this movie an undeserved boost at the box office and rental outlets. Unfortunately, curiosity is the only thing Wagons East has to offer.
The story is simple: A group of settlers in a dusty western town decide they have had it with the rough and tumble life of the new frontier. Each of them have their own complaint, but the bottom line is they liked the relatively refined and cultured life of the east they left behind. So they decide to hire a wagonmaster to lead them back. That's where Candy steps in, playing the part of Harlow, a drunken leader who has a secret that isn't revealed until the party can't turn back.
The secret is really unimportant, and for those few who want to punish themselves by watching this film, I won't give away any of the surprises. What is important is that parents don't mistake a John Candy film as being something the whole family can enjoy. After the pleasant and funny Cool Runnings, Wagons East offers an assortment of sexual jokes, slapstick violence, and many scenes of the ever popular kick-in-the-crotch. The language matches the situations, and there is no redeeming qualities in the story to make this mess worth looking at.
Some movies seem to be intended to entertain the creators more so than the audience. Wagons East is like looking at a group of pre-school children through a one-way window. If any of the characters or director stopped long enough to look around, they would see people watching them, and suddenly feel very embarrassed.