Stir Crazy Review

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After heading west to make their fortunes, playwright Skip Donahue and actor Harry Monroe get mistakenly accused of robbing a bank and are thrown in clink for at least 30 years . When Harry turns out to be a genius at the warden’s chosen sport of rodeo, a


After their scene stealing pair up in Silver Streak, it was a given that Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor would be given their own comedy to head up. The result, efficiently directed by Sidney Poitier, is a likeable buddy movie that never really lives up to the promise of its premise or players.

Things start well. Early scenes of Skip and Harry dressed as chickens (they are both mascots for a bank) are funny but never sacrifice the comedy for believable characters. The movie really hits its comedic stride when, pleading guilty in a plea bargain, the pair are sentenced to 125 years — Wilder’s single, monosyllabic scream is a delight — and, in the film’s iconic scene, the pair act streetwise, talking jive, as they walk into a holding cell.

Yet, once in prison, the gag rate begins to slow up. There are funny moments — particularly those involving Skip and Harry’s encounters with sullen slaphead mass murderer Grossberger (Erland Van Lidth) — but the film gets bogged down in its own plotting. The whole hatching of an escape plan at a rodeo tournament and the inevitable lengthy rodeo set-piece offers little in the way of laughs and quickly becomes repetitious and tiresome. A sub-plot romance with Skip falling for his attorney’s cousin (Williams) also hamstrings the comedy.

Still it is an enjoyable watch, has some standout moments and the chemistry between the upfront Wilder and the laidback Pryor is appealing. The pair tried to recreate Stir Crazy’s box office success with See No Evil Hear No Evil, with a blind Pryor and deaf Wilder "witnessing" a murder. Some people just don’t know when to quit.

A likeable buddy movie that never really lives up to the promise of its premise or players