Even John Candy Couldn't Save This Comedy, Known as One of the Worst Movies Ever

John Candy's birthday was recent, putting him back into fans' minds online for another year as we head into the holidays. The SCTV legend is a popular figure at any point during the year, but he also holds a special place at the holidays thanks to roles in Home Alone, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Uncle Buck.

But near the end of his career, cut short by a heart attack in Mexico while filming Wagon's East. It wouldn't be his final film released, but it was the film he passed away before completing, not doing the movie any favors against its flimsy script.

Wagon's East is a comedy from the summer of 1994, the kind of movie that used to blast into theaters for a few weeks before getting all it could out of audiences. There were laughs, sure, but the typical result was this sweet spot in the video store aisles. Wagon's East stands apart, though, due to its Rotten Tomatoes score of zero percent. It is one of the rare movies that obtained the score on the popular ratings site, also holding a 32 percent audience score.

The film follows a group of "misfit settlers" in the old west of the 1860s, including Richard Lewis' Dr. Phil Taylor, Ellen Greene as the sex worker belle and John C. McGinley as the gay bookseller Julian Roger. If it wasn't clear, they do not fit in with the Wild West mentality and want to abandon the lives that have already abandoned them in the area. So to lead their wagon train East, they hire James Harlow, a grizzled and drunken wagon master played by Candy.

Peeking at Wikipedia for the film, you learn that Candy had more than an acting role in the film. He was contractually mandated to make the film due to contractual red tape and Hollywood posturing. But growing debt and his contractual obligations led to Candy accepting the role. It would be his final role, as he died while making it after having a heart attack in his sleep.

The loss of Candy was too much for the film to deal with, forcing the filmmakers to use CGI, cut footage, a body double and script rewrites to finish the comedian's scenes. Add that to an already difficult production and concept that was meant to stand in the same company as Blazing Saddles.

Roger Ebert called the film "a sad way to end John Candy's career," but a peek at his IMDB shows one other movie that was completed before Wagon's East but released after. Canadian Bacon was director Michael Moore's first attempt at a narrative film, featuring Candy in the lead role of Sheriff Bud Boomer of Niagara Falls, New York.


It's the kind of role that Candy made work and has a lasting impact among his other work. While it is far from the level of The Great Outdoors or Uncle Buck, it is still a complete movie that didn't have to reuse footage of its star to wrap things up.

So don't seek out John Candy's final role in Wagon's East unless you're prepared to watch a half-baked film scuttled by an immense loss. Instead, give Canadian Bacon a chance and lean into the satire. You'll feel a lot better about the end of the comedy legend's career.