Entertainment Magazine

Support Your Local Sheriff!

Posted on the 30 July 2016 by Christopher Saunders
Support Your Local Sheriff!Burt Kennedy graduated from Budd Boetticher's favorite screenwriter to directing broad Western comedies. Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) is representative, a silly farce more amiable than humorous.
Jason McCullough (James Garner) visit Calendar, a small town whose sheriffs have a habit of dying. The Mayor (Harry Morgan) recruits Jason as sheriff, despite the latter's protestations that he's heading to Australia. Jason arrests Joe Danby (Bruce Dern) for murdering a saloon patron, incurring the wrath of outlaw patriarch Pa Denby (Walter Brennan). As Denby organizes his gang, Jason recruits the Mayor's feisty daughter Prudy (Joan Hackett) and bumbling deputy Jake (Jack Elam) to save Calendar.
Unlike Blazing Saddles, Support Your Local Sheriff! plays Western tropes for humor rather than satire. Kennedy and writer William Bowers seed their gunfighter story with broad humor that only fitfully lands. The opening half hour features two lengthy brawls, including a massive mud fight befitting McLintock! Other gags include Jason tripping rowdy cowboys with a rope or Prudy's skirt catching on fire making dinner. Its height of wit comes with Jason outwitting confused townspeople in verbal jousts.
Making no pretense to sophistication, Sheriff! coasts on likeability. Jason's such a scamp we buy his trapping Joe in a barless cell with chalk, or chasing off gunslingers with rocks. He's equally calm romancing the eccentric Prudy or palling around with Jake, who seems grateful for the company. Even the bad guys are more silly than dangerous: in the final shootout, they wait for Jake to take cover before opening fire. It's too enjoyable to dislike but too lightweight to take off.
James Garner plays the same cool Old West trickster as on Maverick, charmingly devious throughout. Joan Hackett's mostly the butt of jokes, until toughening up for the final shootout. It's a treat to see Jack Elam, the ubiquitous Western villain, as a likeable, comedic sidekick. Walter Brennan's befuddled villain, Bruce Dern's whiny outlaw and Harry Morgan's boisterous Mayor provide support.
Support Your Local Sheriff! is a pleasant movie but not an especially funny one. Undemanding Western fans should find it a passable romp.

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