Tag Archives: Tim Conway

The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 1 out of 10

4-Word Review: Bumbling buddies cause havoc.

Amos and Theodore (Tim Conway, Don Knotts) are two former members of an outlaw gang who are now trying to go straight, but as they enter the western boom town of Junction City they find their hopes of living life free of their old criminal ways to be dashed when they get mistakenly accused of robbing the town’s bank. They go on the run from the town’s relentless sheriff (Kenneth Mars) by enlisting in the United States Calvary, but accidentally cause a fire there that ends up burning the whole fort down and getting them into even more trouble.

This very weak sequel to  The Apple Dumpling Gang, has little to recommend and barely any connection to the first one. Besides Knotts and Conway no one from the original cast appears here except for Harry Morgan who plays an entirely different character. It was also the kids in the first film that were called the Apple Dumpling gang and not the two bumbling men, which just cements how unnecessary this film really is.

It’s not like any of the cast from the original film was all that memorable, but they at least helped balance the story from being just one long inane slapstick act, which is all you end up getting here. Knotts and Conway can be good comic relief in brief sporadic spurts, but trying to tie a whole movie around their bumbling act makes it quite one-dimensional.

The supporting cast isn’t any good either with Tim Matheson as bland and transparent as ever as a heroic officer and his romance with the feisty Elyssa Davalos is formulaic and cliched to the extreme. Mars goes overboard with the arrogant sheriff who goes crazy act until it becomes just as annoying and overdone as everything else in the film.

I’ll admit as a child I thought this movie was entertaining, but as an adult I got bored almost immediately despite finding the first installment to be genuinely enjoyable. Part of the problem is that the first one was based on a novel and had an actual story mixed in with the gags while this one is centered exclusively on extreme coincidences to help propel its thin plot along while throwing in slapstick bits that are predictable and unoriginal.

The only thing that surprised me at all was seeing Conway get top billing even though Knotts displayed a wider acting range while Conway merely stands around looking perpetually befuddled. Knotts also had the majority of lines and a little more dimension to his comedy while Conway just acts like a cross-eyed dope, which to me got boring real fast.

I understand that these films have a certain nostalgic appeal for those adults who remember watching it as a kid, but I honestly think that appeal will wear off quickly after about 5 minutes. If you’re under 10 you may like it better, but others should beware.

My Rating: 1 out of 10

Released: June 27, 1979

Runtime: 1 Hour 29 Minutes

Rated G

Director: Vincent McEveety

Studio: Buena Vista 

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Orphaned kids strike gold.

Russell (Bill Bixby) is a slick gambler living in the old West who finds that he has unwittingly become the guardian to three orphaned children ( Clay O’Brien, Brad Savage, Stacy Manning). Initially he tries to pawn them off on other people, but eventually he takes a liking to them when he realizes that they’ve inherited a mine that has gold in it, which soon makes everyone else in town want to adopt them.

This Disney film, which was based on the 1971 Jack Bickham novel of the same name, fares better than most of their other films and in fact became its biggest money maker from the 70’s. It helps that the main character of Russell isn’t as squeaky clean as the typical Disney leading man as it’s strongly implied that he cheats at the poker games that he wins and the fact that he gradually softens towards the kids through time creates a nice character arch. Susan Clark, who’s the love interest, is good here too as she plays against type for a Disney leading lady by being more tom boyish and masculine despite the fact that apparently behind-the-scenes she was scared to death of horses and every scene that required her to ride one had her instead on a mechanical one although you could never tell.

The typical Disney comical trappings are given a unique spin here too, which also helps. Instead of having another boring barroom brawl, which is so common in many western comedies, we are treated to a funny lovers spat between Clark and Bixby inside the bar where props get thrown around between the two while everyone else sits frozen and unsure of what to do. There’s no cartoonish car chase at the end either, but instead a genuinely hair-raising battle between Bixby and Slim Pickens, who plays one of the bad guys, down the white rapids of a river. The shooting was also done on-location at Deschutes National Forest in Oregon, which improves the setting from the usual studio back lot.

Even the kids are tolerable without having their cuteness or innocence get overdone even though the running joke dealing with the young girl constantly having to go pee isn’t as funny as it seems when you think about it and most likely in reality would’ve been a warning sign of a very serious medical condition instead. Also, the scene showing the kids getting trapped in the mine after an earthquake should’ve also shown how they were able to get out instead of simply cutting to the next scene with them back in town of it without any explanation as to how they got there.

The real stars of the film though are Don Knotts and Tim Conway as the comically bumbling would-be crooks. This marked the first of five film appearances that the two did together and in many ways this is probably their best effort. I always liked seeing them together because it was a rare chance for Knotts to play the smarter of the two instead of always being the dope himself although some may find Conway’s extreme ineptness more annoying than funny. In either event they help enliven the proceedings and became the stars of the sequel The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, which will be reviewed next week.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: July 1, 1975

Runtime: 1 Hour 40 Minutes

Rated G

Director: Norman Tokar

Studio: Buena Vista

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

The Longshot (1986)

longshot

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Betting on a horse.

Four middle-aged losers (Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Ted Wass, Jack  Weston) who’ve spent years attending the racetrack and betting on horses, but never making any money off of it, finally get a tip from an insider. Santiago (Jorge Cervera Jr.) tells them to place a bet on a horse with a longshot of winning because he will feed the animal a certain drug, which will make him run faster. Since the four do not have any funds of their own they decide to borrow the money from a local gangster (George DiCenzo) who gives them $10,000, but with heavy interest added. The men are convinced that they will be able to easily pay it back, but then just as the bet is placed they find out that it’s been a set-up, which sends the four into a panic.

The screenplay was written by Conway who has been an avid horse racing fan for years and even considered becoming a jockey before entering into acting. Like with his other films that he also scripted it is poorly paced with long stretches where nothing much happens. Very little of the runtime is spent on the actual plot and the majority of the film instead deals with meandering conversations and wacky/sketch-like comedy that has nothing at all to do with the main story.

Some of it is mildly amusing like with different euphemisms the men use to describe the male sex organ, but overall it’s pretty desperate. Some of it is too dumb to be believable: for instance what sort of person in their right mind, even a complete idiot, would light a grill inside a parked car with the windows up and not expect problems? The scene dealing with Conway’s rendezvous with the Stella Stevens’ character inside her hotel room is needlessly prolonged and pointless and the segment where Korman eats his beef stew while making loud slurping noises is gross sounding and should’ve been cut out completely.

The one thing that I found interesting is the fact that this film is a bit edgier than most of Conway’s other ones. During the ‘70s he was locked into perpetually G-rated material, but here it gets more PG-13 with one character even using the F-word and Conway close to using it himself a couple of times. He also plays more of a normal person instead of the vapid, dopey one that he usually does. Instead Ted Wass handles the duties of the numskull and in many ways is much funnier with it.

The supporting cast is the only thing that saves this otherwise limp excursion. Anne Meara is great as Conway’s sarcastic wife and Jack Weston becomes a scene stealer as his pal. Other familiar faces pop-up in minor bits including Frank Bonner as a real estate agent, Susan Tolsky as a would-be topless waitress, Jonathan Winters as a pick-up truck driver and Eddie Deezen as a carhop. Edie McClurg is seen briefly as Korman’s wife and Paul Bartel, who has the dubious honors of directing this flick, can be spotted as a racing spectator during the opening credits.

Conway fans will most likely be more forgiving, but others beware. If you do watch it you’ll be treated to an opening rap duet between Conway and Ice-T, yes you read that right, and a closing song done by Irene Cara.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: January 17, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Paul Bartel

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video