The Cherokee Kid (1996) — Sinbad becomes a man in the Old West

“Just me and you turkey, and one of us has got to die!”

Justin’s rating: Sinbad to the sinbone

Justin’s review: There’s a class of actors for whom the ’90s were their defining era. Alicia Silverstone. Pauly Shore. Leonardo DiCaprio. Steven Seagal. Samantha Mathis. And, for whatever reason, Sinbad.

If you don’t know him, Sinbad was everywhere in the ’90s. He was a very popular stand-up comedian who had his own show before making a long string of movies, most notably 1995’s Houseguest and 1996’s Jingle All the Way with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was charming and likable, a pretty bankable star in his own right… who all but faded into obscurity by the time we were freaking out about Y2K. It was a shockingly fast fall from glory, and nobody seems to understand why Sinbad wasn’t more sought-after following a headlining role in Goodburger.

But a year or two before Sinbad’s career went on the decline, the comedian returned to the cable channel that made him a star in the first place: HBO. This time, the partnership resulted in a made-for-TV movie that, to my observation, relatively few people even know was made.

The Cherokee Kid covers the saga of a western legend who finds himself trying to avenge his family against evil land grabbers and finding out where his brother went. The only problem is that Kid is a bit of a klutz who kind of relies on pratfalls, a motor mouth, and weaponized turkeys to keep from a premature visit to the grave.

It’s the combination of all of these that lands Sinbad’s character in with a gang of bank robbers. This is probably for the best, because this ends up leading him to Burt Reynolds as Otter Bob, a crazy loner who gives Cherokee Kid the on-the-job education that he needs to become a capable man and take down James Coburn in the final act.

The Cherokee Kid isn’t a consistently hilarious movie, but it’s far better than other ’90s western-comedy fare like Wagons East. When Sinbad gets his mouth going, he becomes a machine gun of jokes, saturating the landscape so that enough of them land amid the carnage.

The glimpses of weird and twisted bits of humor — such as Kid drunkenly killing a bear, a Mexican patriot who keeps swearing a debt of honor, or Otter Bob wanting to learn to read so that he can finally discover the tale of a naughty book — help to keep this flick above water. But only barely, mind you. There are too many stretches where the movie forgets to be funny and settles for a run-of-the-mill western.

In the end, I feel it’s safe to push The Cherokee Kid across the desk to you with a knowing nod of affirmation. It’s got a few great laughs, plenty of colorful personalities, and Ernie Hudson as historical cowboy Nat Love. If it had gotten a theatrical release, this might be much better remembered, but hey, it’s never too late to rectify that.

Didja notice?

  • Apparently Robin Hood is a historical figure on par with Thomas Jefferson
  • Not the tomatoes!
  • “Hey Jake, I’m your cousin!”
  • A rabid rabbit
  • The exchange between Sinbad and the bank teller is terrific
  • “It’s not a dirty book!”
  • Otter Bob knows every famous figure
  • Cuddling with a rabbit for warmth
  • Don’t cross Otter Bob
  • You’re not a man until you kill a bear with your bare hands
  • Gila monsters don’t respond to stern talking-tos
  • The invention of the toothbrush
  • Don’t keep saving his life!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s