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SIDEKICKS

For Hicksflicks.com, Nov. 8, 2013

In 1971 James Garner teamed with Louis Gossett Jr. for a hilarious and thought-provoking, if now largely forgotten, satire of race relations called "Skin Game." The setting is the post-Civil War South and Garner and Gossett are con artists, Gossett posing as a slave and Garner as his master. They go into a town where they aren't known, Garner sells Gossett to the highest bidder, then helps him escape and they're off to the next town.

Then, in 1974, Gossett reprised his role and Larry Hagman took over Garner's part for a TV-movie sequel, "Sidekicks," which was actually a pilot for a proposed series that would be rejected by the CBS network.

"Skin Game" was released on DVD by the manufacture-on-demand website Warner Archive four years ago, and now it has released "Sidekicks," which is more of a broad comedy. There are some solid laughs, mostly from Harry Morgan (who seems to be channeling his 1969 role in "Support Your Local Sherriff," by the same director, Burt Kennedy), and Hagman and Gossett have buddy chemistry, and there is fine comic support from Blythe Danner, Jack Elam and other familiar faces.

The plot this time has Hagman and Gossett posing as outlaws with a bank-robbing gang, their intention being to capture the boss (Elam) and collect a handsome reward. Naturally, things don't go quite as planned.

"Sidekicks" isn't up there with "Skin Game" (or "Support Your Local Sheriff," for that matter), and Hagman is no Garner, but it's an OK jaunty Western comedy as a companion to the first film. Both movies are available at the Warner Archive website.