What distinguishes farce from sitcom from melodrama from satire? That seems to be a problematic question for Leon Prochnik’s script, and although “Four Eyes and Six-Guns” engages and entertains at times, its overall lack of fluid style causes it to miss the mark.
Obsessed with his dreams of the Old West, New York optometrist Ernest Albright (Judge Reinhold) has made installment payments on a storefront in Tombstone, with the intent of practicing in Wyatt Earp’s (Fred Ward) infamous town.
In preparation for his move, Ernest takes gunfighting lessons from a retired gunslinger (Jake Dengel). Though his style needs serious help, Ernest possesses a sharpshooter’s eye.
After being fired, Ernest heads out West only to discover he has been swindled, his Main Street store being little more than that an off-the-beaten-path shack. Further disillusionment follows when he finds his hero, Earp, to be a sarcastic sot. The difficult situation worsens when Lucy (Patricia Clarkson), the sweetheart he left in New York, arrives.
Ernest ends up nabbing one of the dreaded Doom brothers (Dan Hedaya), thereby shaking up the town’s status quo by incurring the wrath of the rest of the gang.
Earp turns out to be near-sighted, but of course will have nothing to do with Ernest’s offer of spectacles and leaves town. In the end, quite expectedly, it is Ernest who vanquishes the gang, gets the girl and has his fortunes mended.
Director Piers Haggard chooses the careful, no-risk approach to this comedy, resulting in a softness that amuses but is never really funny.
Reinhold erratically shows his character’s awkwardness both physically and emotionally. His characterization inspires little empathy and often displays an unlikable petulance.
Little real communication transpires between Reinhold and Clarkson, with the latter left almost completely to her own devices. The Doom brothers provide the incongruous farcical elements, while Ward’s Earp makes sense, but does little else.
Technical kudos to Anthony B. Richmond (camera) and Gayle Evans (costumes). Unfortunately, the almost-funny vidpic is better to look at than to watch.