You know, things went so well showing my kids The Apple Dumpling Gang that everyone was on board for the sequel. Don Knotts! Tim Conway! What more of a reason do you need than that? I mean, the first movie was so straightforward. If there were even an alley oop moment in the history of family movies, making a sequel to Dumpling should have been it.
They didn’t just fail to slam dunk this movie. They failed on pretty much every level of “how to make a passable film.” I mean, there were a few parts in the 88 minutes that were diverting, but I’ve seen Mystery Science Theater movies that made more sense than this film. What in the world went wrong?
First up, they decided to jettison the three kids from the first movie completely, choosing (it seemed) to rely wholly on the talents of Knotts and Conway. Except instead of just having Knotts and Conway do stupid pratfalls for 88 minutes, they decided to embroil them in a plot that is more complex than most modern day Mission Impossible movies. Allow me to try to explain. (I’d warn you that these are spoilers, but really, if you end up watching the movie, you’ll thank me for giving you the general gist ahead of time, just so you can keep track.)
The film takes place on the frontier. A US fort has been having continual raids of their supplies by (they believe) Native Americans. The commander orders his second in command to get to the bottom of things. His second in command is also engaged to his daughter, who arrives in the same town Knotts and Conway come to in the beginning. She’s picked up by a Random Army Guy, who slinks around looking generally suspicious and fraternizes with equally suspicious characters.
Knotts and Conway manage to accidentally be the suspects of another bank robbery, but in the course of the robbery, they (also accidentally) disarm the famous lawman who tries to stop them. They become folk heroes instantly, but then try to give the money they accidentally stole back, in the process accidentally injuring the lawman again. They flee the town with the law in hot pursuit. In order to get away, they hide in the same wagon the Random Army Guy is picking up the commander’s daughter in. They accidentally drink a whole ton of champagne (long story) and end up falling asleep in the wagon. When it arrives at the fort, they’re discovered and . . . immediately enlisted in the army, because the army’s down on troops. (Native American raids, remember?)
Except the army quickly discovers there’s no greater destructive force in the world than Knotts and Conway, so they’re demoted to the kitchen, where they’re entrusted to get things ready for the engagement party that’s going to be thrown for the commander’s daughter. The Famous Lawman shows up in the middle of the party and (long story short), Knotts and Conway succeed in burning the entire fort to the ground. But not before Random Army Guy can flee the scene, abducting the Commander’s Daughter in the process.
Famous Lawman goes crazy and tries to start shooting Knotts and Conway, who naturally can’t be shot. They go to prison, where they discover another prisoner is actually using the prison as a hideout from which to stage raids on the army supply shipments. He decides Knotts and Conway (who accidentally came on him while he was monologuing about his plans) should come with, because they managed to get the drop on Famous Lawman.
Meanwhile, Random Army Guy takes the Commander’s Daughter to a random cabin the woods, where Random Matronly Figure reassures the daughter that Random Army Guy actually loves her. The daughter is disgusted, but intrigued. Because love.
Knotts and Conway run away from the Big Evil Dude, managing in the process to dress themselves first in drag and then as Native American women, because there was no stereotype they were afraid of using back in the 1979. They finally successfully run away and get on a train, which just so happens to have the Commander’s Daughter on it, as well as the latest batch of army supplies.
In a reveal that startles no one, the Second in Command Army Guy turns out to be bad, and the Random Army Guy is actually good, and they all fight on the train until the war party shows up and starts firing on the train. Except apparently the Native Americans are just there because they’re pissed off that Knotts and Conway swindled them out of some blankets. (Hyuk hyuk.)
Knotts and Conway manage to accidentally save the day, and . . . the end?
Did you follow that? I didn’t, and I’m the one who just tried to write it. I have to hand it to the movie, though. They did blow a fair number of things up, and they actually burned a fort down, which was pretty thrilling in a non-CGI way you typically don’t get these days. But other than that? The movie made absolutely no sense, and there were only one or two times that Knotts and Conway were actually able to do their slapstick humor.
Bottom line: avoid this movie. I gave it a 2/10, and only because there were a few genuine laughs in there. Even being stuck in quarantine can’t make this movie watchable.
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