Comedian John Candy, who died during the making of this poorly received comic western, plays James Harlow, a 19th century wagon master who is heading back east with a wagon train full of oddball characters who have had their fill of Western life. They include ex-doctor Phil Taylor (Richard Lewis), kind-hearted prostitute Belle (Ellen Greene), and a bookseller, Julian (John C. McGinley). Harlow is a drunken, washed-up leader who frequently gets lost. The travelers eventually discover that he was a member of the famous Donner party, which resorted to cannibalism when stranded in the mountains. Railroad magnates try to turn back the party, figuring it's bad publicity for people out East to learn that the West is not really a paradise. The tycoons hire gunfighters and villains to stop the expedition, but local Indians protect the wagons, because they are glad to see disgruntled white settlers leaving their lands. This "backwards" western was based on a story by Jerry Abrahamson.