Judge Patrick Naugle is a real buttkicker.
"There's something fishy about you two. I can feel it in my gut. Of course, that could also be the baked beans."
Traveling together through the old west right after the Civil War, Quince Drew (Larry Hagman, I Dream of Jeannie) and Jason O'Rourke (Louis Gossett, Jr., Iron Eagle) are two con men who wander into a town and are quickly jailed by the local sheriff (Harry Morgan, M*A*S*H) and his overzealous daughter, Prudy Jenkins (Blythe Danner, Meet the Parents). Breaking out and heading into the dessert, the two men meet up with a man only known as Boss (Jack Elam, Support Your Local Sheriff) and hatch a plan to go along with a bank robbery and, at the last minute, hand over the gang of thieves to the authorities to collect the reward and save their skins. What could go wrong?
I had never heard of Sidekicks until it came in for review. There's a good reason; it's a made-for-TV film from 1974 (two years before I was born!) that hasn't been available often on any home media format. Sidekicks is a remake/continuation/sequel/hopeful TV pilot (that never came to fruition) of the 1971 film Skin Game which starred James Garner and Louis Gossett, Jr. as con artists in the old west. Often when I'm writing a review I have prior knowledge of a film's predecessor—or at the very least had heard of it. That certainly wasn't the case with Sidekicks or, for that matter, the original film it's based on. So, I go into Sidekicks with fresh eyes and a clean slate. I can only judge it by what I'm seeing on screen.
Sidekicks was originally set to be a television series, and it shows; the film clocks in at 73 minutes and plays like a silly sitcom stretched out to feature film length. Everything about Sidekicks screams "made for broadcast television," from the clichéd music cues to the commercial break fade outs to the broad characters that populate the film. Even with its negatives, I have to admit to enjoying Sidekicks far more than I'd expected. This was due mostly to the performances of the leads (and even some supporting characters); although the story is rather light on invention, the actors infuse the film with snappy rapport and likable personalities. A movie like this hinges strictly on performances (you'll see the ending coming a mile away), and luckily there's enough talent to overcome its shortcomings.
The late Larry Hagman (taking over the role of Quince Drew from James Garner) and Louis Gossett, Jr. (reprising his role) make for a rather amusing duo and have a warm, easy going camaraderie together. I can easily see James Garner in the Quince Drew role, and while I'm a bigger fan of Garner than of Hagman, the former Dallas star acquits himself nicely. Louis Gossett, Jr. is effective as a black man who doesn't understand all the fuss about slavery in the south (he was born in New Jersey and had never heard of it until meeting up with Drew). A cornucopia of character actors also show up, including Blythe Danner as a rough and tumble law gal, a humorous Harry Morgan as a lax town sheriff who barely tolerates his daughter ("I hoped for a boy and got one"), and the irreplaceable Jack Elam as a grumbling outlaw boss. Keep a sharp eye out for The Dukes of Hazzard's Denver Pyle as a town drunk who can't shoot straight.
Sidekicks is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. This Warner Archive title actually looks pretty good, all things considered. Yes, there are some minor defects in the image (some dirt and grain, and a few colors that seem weirdly off), but overall this looks pretty good for a low-budget and mostly forgotten 1974 TV movie of the week. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. This audio track gets the job done, but does little else—there aren't any surround sounds or directional effects to be heard here. Dialogue, music, and effects are all clearly recorded.
There are no bonus features included on this first ever DVD release of Sidekicks.
Sidekicks was produced and directed by Burt Kennedy, whose final film was the Hulk Hogan/Christopher Lloyd dud Suburban Commando. I make note of that because…well, frankly I don't have a good reason. I just like to make mention of Suburban Commando every so often. Anyhow, Kennedy keeps the movie clipping along and the verbal banter amusing; the comedic elements are what make Sidekicks worth sitting through. For all its limitations and obscurity, Sidekicks is quite a hoot.
A few spurs and a ten gallon hat.
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Studio: Warner Bros.
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