This 1998 comedy directed by Christopher Guest takes a lighter look at the concept of exploration in the early 1800s.
Leslie Edwards (Matthew Perry) seeks to trek West, from the United States territory to the Pacific. Unfortunately, he finds himself in a race against the more famous Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, and lacking much in the way of a crew. Enter Bartholomew Hunt (Chris Farley), a hefty, crass woodsman with a taste for booze. Accompanied by Hunt's hapless cohorts, a Frenchman and his Indian slave, the band sets out to beat the more famous Lewis and Clark at their own game.
This was Chris Farley's last movie before his premature death. His true final movie, Dirty Work, was released after it (though Farley only had a bit part in Dirty Work, while he was a co-star for this film).
This film provides examples of:
- Actually, That's My Assistant: Hunt and Edwards mistook an intimidating, silent Indian man for the tribe's chief and gets repeatedly slap in the face for their troubles. When the real chief shows up, he explains to them that they were talking to Bent Twig, who isn't "right in the head." Bent Twig then starts clucking like a chicken.
- And the Adventure Continues: Edwards and Hunt succeed in reaching the Pacific coast, but they and their expedition decide to continue their adventure by exploring the world.
- Artistic License Physics: Hunt is carried in the air... by an eagle. The saving throw is that it's done for laughs.
- Bold Explorer: The whole film basically parodies this trope, as both protagonists want to be bold explorers, but neither is particularly bold.
- Chekhov's Gag: The eagle that Hunt steal eggs from comes back to literally pick him up and drop him in the Pacific, allowing the Edwards and Hunt expedition to reach the coast just minutes before Lewis and Clark's expedition.
- The Chew Toy: Bidwell suffers the most than any other in the expedition. This include: his ear bitten off by Guy Fontenot (for peeping on his wife), losing a leg to a bear, and getting shot twice by one of Hidalgo's men.
- Companion Cube: One of the men carries a woman made of straw on the journey (he in fact brought her from a "whorehouse" full of them that they come across), completely convinced she's real.
- Cunning Linguist: Averted for Guy Fontenot, who claims to know all the languages of the Native American tribes the group would encounter. Quickly turns out he doesn't. Only his Indian wife Shaquinna fills in the role instead.
- Defiant to the End: Hunt was about to be hanged and gives one to his executioner just before being pardoned by President Jefferson.Hunt: When I am dead and have passed on to the next world... I want you to lower me from these gallows and...kiss my hairy buttocks!
- Drinking Contest: Hunt challenges Hidalgo and all of his men to a drinking contest. Hunt won before passing out.
- Envy: When Hidalgo tells the captured companions that he's going to cut Shaquinna's hair off and asks them why, Higgins answers is because he's jealous of her hair being more beautiful than his. After we find out that Hidalgo is bald and was only wearing a wig, Higgins may be right.
- Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Higgins brings his bagpipes on the trip. His companions like the bagpipes, but hate how he plays the same tune over and over.
- Everything's Worse with Bears:
- A bear wanders into the expedition's camp in the middle of the night and everyone tries to stay still. Unfortunately Bidwell doesn't (because of his itching nose) and gets his right leg bitten off.
- Leslie gets sick and delusionally rants that bears will rise up against humans. "And we will be the ones in carnivals wearing little hats!"
- Fake-Hair Drama: After Hidalgo is revealed to have been wearing a wig the entire time.
- Foregone Conclusion / The Greatest Story Never Told: While the Edwards and Hunt expedition beat the Lewis and Clark expedition at reaching the Pacific coast first, they decide not to return back home. Meaning that despite all of their efforts, Lewis and Clark took all the credits in history as we know it. Although Edwards, Hunt, and their friends are more happy with just exploring the world than for fame.
- Glory Hound: Leslie Edwards, a foppish aristocrat, started the entire journey in order to become famous.
- I Call It "Vera": Hunt's fork "Pittsburgh Nellie."Hunt: I name this here fork "Pittsburgh Nellie"; a Welsh whore who could do things with her one good arm that'd make you forget that *thing* on her neck.
- Indian Maiden: Shaquinna, the expedition's Expy of Sacagawea.
- It Seemed Trivial: Shaquinna told Hunt she needed the egg of an eagle to cure Edwards' illness. After he goes through a great deal of trouble and personal injury to bring one back to her intact (he eats two of the three in the eagle's nest), including a Desperate Object Catch, she casually cracks it open in front of him and spills the insides on the ground.Hunt: Why?
Shaquinna: All I needed was the shell.
- Narrator: Voiced by Harry Shearer.
- Never Learned to Read: Bartholomew Hunt is completely illiterate. So Edwards tries to teach him to learn the alphabets; however, Hunt Rage Quit over the letter "A".
- Outdoor Bath Peeping: Edwards and Hunt spy on Shaquinna having a Waterfall Shower with a telescope, although they only see her Toplessness from the Back.
- Plot Twist: Higgins tells his campfire story about tricking his brother to eating sheep shit, or "Shit Pudding" as he calls it. He then reveals the twist is that he never had a brother, and it was him who ate sheep shit.Edward: (disgusted) Clever twist there on the ending.
- Tap on the Head: Hunt tries to administer one to Edwards at the climax so he can be the one to take the risky trip down the cliff to beat Lewis and Clark, but after seeing the giant rock Hunt picks up Edwards just tells him to go.