This town “ain’t” big enough for the two… err, three of us! There’s a snake in my… laptop? Halfway to Amarillo is the latest rootin’est tootin’est comedy from the writer/director Burt Binder that blends modern life with wild west tropes from beloved Western tales of decades prior.
Michael Coleman (Burt Binder) is a writer who is navigating a way to balance everything in his personal life while attempting to adhere to a writing deadline. Coming off the success of his first book, Michael has decided to place his sophomore novel in the Western genre. Unfortunately, writer’s block creeps in as he struggles to connect the dots of his story and come up with a conclusion. Meanwhile, Michael has a girlfriend, Naomi (Lindsey G. Smith), who is also fighting for his precious time and attention. Topping off his distractions, Michael’s mother insists on tidying up his home during her several unannounced pop-in visits.
Michael’s gang of friends do what they think is helpful by offering him outlets for distraction to take his mind off of his troubles. They, of course, cause more frustration than good and, in a parting gift present Michael with a bottle of whiskey to help cure his writer’s block. In an attempt to achieve a breakthrough in his Western novel, Michael indulges in shot after shot from the whiskey bottle leaving him in a late-night drunken stupor.
In Michael’s booze-infused hazy state, worlds collide, thrusting the two main characters of his Western tale into his real life. Outlaw Eli West (Luke Jones) and Sheriff Morgan Ambrose (Peter Giles) crash into Michael’s reality as they argue over who should be the hero and how the story should end. Michael is left handling the chaos as he both tries to keep his main characters out of trouble and finish his book about the Wild West.
“In Michael’s booze-infused hazy state, worlds collide…”
Halfway to Amarillo will remind you of Stranger Than Fiction crossed with Back to The Future: Part 3. The movie successfully ties together fantasy and reality in a funny and enjoyable way. The dialogue and scenarios in which all the characters interact are quirky and comical. Michael’s “can’t be bothered” persona, paired with the stereotypical heightened Wild West personas of Eli and Ambrose, provides the grounds for plenty of silly moments.
On the surface, Halfway to Amarillo seems like only a comedy, but I was surprised to consider thoughts of morality in between the jokes. As a writer of the Western novel, Michael has the power to dictate the past, present, and future of the two main characters. This wasn’t a problem when Eli and Ambrose were nothing more than figments of Michael’s imagination, simply text on a page. Once the characters merge with reality, the question of having power over these characters’ lives poses a true moral dilemma.
The cast of Halfway to Amarillo is terrific. Luke Jones and Peter Giles steal the show with their portrayals of exaggerated versions of an outlaw and a town sheriff straight out of the scenes of a 1960s John Wayne cowboy flick. Sometimes serious and sometimes straight-up wacky, these two, along with the rest of the cast, elevate the story. Also, if you are a fan and follower of the entertainment sphere of Los Angeles’ Comedy Store, keep an eye out for a recognizable cameo.
If you enjoy quirky comedies or have a soft spot like I do for Western films of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, definitely give Halfway to Amarillo a watch. It’s a little zany, a little thought-provoking, and a lot of fun.
"…a little zany, a little thought provoking, and a lot of fun..."