Calamity Jane is back in a new, not-bad movie with some surprising stars

Calamity Jane, Emily Bett Rickards, Stephen Amell, Tim RoxonI streamed the new 2024 movie called Calamity Jane, featuring well-disguised members of your favorite superhero shows, and I’m here to report: it’s definitely … a movie.

The ultra-violent, plain-speakin’, gun-slingin’ lady with the poor hygiene has been the subject of a whole lot of movies and TV shows over the years. I especially liked the version that was in the classic Deadwood TV series, what played by Robin Weigert, whom we haven’t seen nearly enough of since – though I see she’s in that new Reacher rip-off, Tracker. Past that, Jane’s had something like half a dozen movies about her or with her in a lead role, from musicals to serious historical dramas, and the women who’ve played her sounds like a bad Hollywood joke: Doris Day. Carol Burnett. Jane Alexander. Even the ever-amazing voice and live-action actor Lake Bell in a post-apocalyptic version. And now: Emily Bett Rickards – I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly! — the beloved Feclicty Smoak from Arrow and the dear, departed CW Arrowverse is giving it a try, along with the Arrow himself, Stephen Amell, as Wild Bill Hickock – god rest his drunken, larcenous soul – and Tim Roxon, Doc Holliday in another life, over on Wynonna Earp – as Sheriff Mason, the lawman whut shot Wild Bill dead… and the man that Calamity breaks out of jail to kill.

And thereby hangs the tail.

Now look: this isn’t bad. It’s not a classic. It’s not friggin’ Deadwood, but then what is? But it is an earnest and surprisingly well-made attempt at telling a good story about these complicated legends of the Old West. I’m pretty sure it goes picked up by Tubi because of all the ‘meta’ connections here – the Arrowverse guys, Tim Roxon – but they didn’t just whack together another hack western. All of them, especially Rickards, try to invest some real life and complexity into characters that could easily, almost unavoidably, become cartoon characters of the Waaald Wayust.

And they succeed … about 60% of the time.

Part of the problem is that Rickards and Amell and Roxon are so recognizable – I mean, their various series were on for, what four, five, seven years, and not all that long ago – that they are all working super hard not to look like themselves – or the version of themselves that we know. Rickard’s hair is long and brown and unbrushed, unlike the stylish Felicity Smoak of Star City. Both Amell and Roxon are sporting full beards and heavy brows, doing their best to not look anything like their superheroic fantasy personae. And all of them – Roxon the least – are laying our super thing Waystern Accayents to, I think, pull the viewers’ awareness completely away from their earlier roles. But it’s too much. The accest in particular get in the way – really they’re pretty over-the-top. And with all that hair and all those hats, the obvious and long-standing chemistry between Wild Bill and Calamity Jane – which is the center of the story, and clearly possible with these two actors – has a hard time coming through, and that’s a shame.

The story is a little more convoluted than it needs to be, with Hickock’s death handled earlier on and also shoved to the side in favor of a more traditional set of jail breaks, bad guys, and shoot-outs. It really only breaks the mold now and then, especialy with a nice little set piece where Calamity helps a dying undertaker – yeah, the irony is lost on no one – find his way to a dignified death… and that whole sequence, slipped into the third act, gives us a hint of how good this could have been if it hadn’t been shackled with so much plot and so many cross-purposes.

All in all: Calamity Jane is better than it has to be, and not as good as it could have been, but it’s nice to see Emily Bett and Amell working together again, and Roxon in particular does a good job playing a good guy in a bad place with these crazy outlaws. Don’t expect miracles a la Deadwood and you won’t be disappointed. And without giving too much away .. I hope this gets the kind of notice that Tubi is looking for, I hope people watch it. There’s an opening at the end to continue the semi-mythical story of Calamity Jane post-Wild Bill, and I’d love to see her and Roxon tell another story, a different story, that isn’t quite as shackled by the pre-established storyline and all the meta references. You know: a cast that isn’t entirely pulled from CW superhero shows.

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