How the West Was Fun (1994)
Olsen twins horse around in How the West Was Fun
When one thinks of the Western genre of film, images of silver screen legends John Wayne and Clint Eastwood likely pop up in his or her head. Wayne and Eastwood starred in some of the most revered Western films of all time. It would have been nice if the two acting giants had a chance to team up together for a cowboy flick. Sadly, since Eastwood is now 80 years old, and Wayne has been deceased for 30 years, this is not likely to happen. On the bright side, however, two thespians of equally iconic stature teamed up in 1994 to star in a wonderful film titled How the West Was Fun. I am referring, of course to the dynamic duo of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
In the made for television film How the West Was Fun, Mary-Kate and Ashley portray Jessica and Susie, two big city girls who live with their father. Unfortunately, their mother passed away a few years earlier. Incidentally, I don’t think I have ever seen the Olsen twins in any movie or TV series where their mother is still around. This leads me to believe that the Olsen twins hate all mothers.
The family receives a letter from the twin’s godmother Natty, inviting them to her dude ranch. The girls, unbeknownst to their father Steven, call up his boss and tell her that their dad needs to take his vacation immediately. She promptly fires him as a result, but the girls keep that a secret.
Once they arrive at the ranch, they meet not only Natty, but her devious son Bart (Martin Mull), as well as Native American George Tailfeathers and Laura, a fetching rodeo performer who catches Steven’s eye.
Natty is in dire financial trouble, and her son Bart is quite pushy in her attempts to sell the ranch. Through some clever sleuthing, the twins uncover Bart’s plot to take over the ranch himself, and build an amusement park in its place.
Once Steven finds out that he is now jobless, he does what any responsible single parent of two who no longer has any source of income would do: he empties out his life savings and tries to save the ranch. It might not be a sound financial strategy, but it makes for a great story.
From there we get to enjoy all sorts of zany shenanigans, as Bart attempts to foil the plans to save the ranch. Wouldn’t you know it, those two little eight year olds might be the ones to save the day.
The scenery was beautiful (filmed just outside of Calgary), the writing was sublime and the supporting cast was terrific. But it is the presence of young Mary- Kate and Ashley that truly elevates this film. Even though they were only eight years old at the time of filming, they absolutely devour every scene they are in, only to quickly vomit back the scene onto the viewer. Yes, that is a compliment.
For years, the girls were not allowed to appear in scenes together, since they both had to share the role of Michelle Tanner on Full House due to child labour laws. This is a bit like when Robert De Niro and Al Pacino co-starred in The Godfather 2, but didn’t share any scenes. Thank God they grew up so we can enjoy both of them on the screen at the same time.
Before watching this film, if you asked me what my favourite Western was, I probably would have told you that it was The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Well, now I will proudly tell you that How the West Was Fun is my favourite film of this ilk. There is nothing bad, nor anything ugly about this film. It is only good, very, very good.