Less Fever More Cold Sweats
Two years after his wife was killed during a bank robbery, former Sheriff Preston Biggs (Kevin Sorbo - Walking Tall: Lone Justice) has become the town drunk and found himself behind bars when during a bar room brawl he causes damage he can't pay for. In need of a way to make some money he agrees to escort three mail order brides back to the train at Carson City after it is decided that they have become delusional with 'Prairie Fever'. Along the way they find themselves accompanied by Olivia Thibodeaux (Jamie Anne Allman), an accomplice to a cheating gambler who has run away with his money. But that means that her former partner is on their trail as are various groups of people who are after the money.
At its heart "Prairie Fever" has the elements for a different sort of western, one which takes a look at how some women were treated back in the days of the Wild West. Yet the opportunity to deliver something genuinely interesting gets pushed to the back, buried deep beneath a ton of cliche, romantic nonsense and some dialogue which would best be suited to a Hallmark movie rather than a western. But strangely despite ending up little more than a collection of cliches acted out by some good looking stars "Prairie Fever" still manages to entertain and whilst not the most action packed of westerns keeps your attention for all of its 81 minutes.
Now to be blunt "Prairie Fever" opens in such a cliche manner that it knocks down your expectations within seconds. Bank robbery, dead wife, sheriff hitting the drink, a card shark and his female accomplice as well as an angry villain or two and within 10 minutes we've been introduced to more cliches than you see in many a western. But get through this and we get the first bit of the underlying story, the three mail order brides rejected because of their perceived craziness, as in having got 'Prairie Fever'. Now there are times when "Prairie Fever" attempts to focus on the women, how they have been mistreated by the men in their lives and can't cope in the rough west compared to the city but these moments end up small. You do get some idea as to how hard it could be from these fleeting scenes but they end up playing second fiddle to what becomes the main story.
Now that main story to "Prairie Fever" is the trail they take, the trouble which comes their way be it a wheel falling off the wagon or enemies of Preston Biggs coming after him. Add to that gambling assistant Olivia Thibodeaux who absconds from her gambling partner with his money and ends up travelling with Biggs, helping him with the women who are initially delirious. This of course leads to two not so unexpected turns, her former gambling partner is coming after her and she and Biggs end up falling for each other, with Biggs finding a new reason to live after hitting the bottle. To put it simply around 95% of "Prairie Fever" is predictable, full of cliches and some overly soft romance. And to be honest for a western there is surprisingly little action, a couple of small gun orientated scenes but nothing really big. Yet despite this it does throw in a terrific surprise, I say surprise because it is not shocking but it catches you off guard when one person gets killed.
As for the acting well I feel sorry for Kevin Sorbo because Preston Biggs does not ring true of your typical western character, he's supposedly a man racked with remorse who has hit the drink and lost his job yet what we get is a quiet almost thinking man style character who is far too softly spoken to be believable. Thankfully the rest of the characters have more energy and whilst they may at times be over the top Felicia Day, Jillian Armenante and Dominique Swain are entertaining as the three mail order brides who go from seemingly delusional to being calm, nice people. And whilst it's not what you should remember a character for Jamie Anne Allman is sexy as Olivia Thibodeaux with her mix of being feisty and kind.
What this all boils down to is that technically "Prairie Fever" is not a good western, it wastes an opportunity to explore the treatment of women during the Wild West days and instead serves up a series of cliche scenes and characters. Yet despite technically not being good it is still strangely entertaining and it is more the chemistry and friendship which forms between these characters rather than what happens which makes "Prairie Fever" enjoyable.