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Film Review: Stir Crazy
In 1980, Sidney Poitier released, Stir Crazy from which Starred Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Georg Stanford Brown, JoBeth Williams, Miguel Angel Suarez, Craig T. Nelson, Barry Corbin, Nicolas Coster, Joel Brooks, Erland Van Lidth, and Cedrick Hardman. Grossing $101.3 million at the box office, it was the first film directed by an African-American that earned more than $100 million. The third highest-grossing film of 1980, it was nominated for the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actress.
After being fed up with living in New York City, playwright Skip Donahue and his best friend Harry Monroe, an out of work actor, decide to drive to Los Angeles. However, they’re framed for a bank robbery and are sentenced to 125 years. While waiting for an appeal, the warden sees that Skip is the only prisoner that can ride his mechanical bull at full power and forces him to participate in the annual road competition.
Though it has a few good moments Stir Crazy really isn’t that good with the plot as one aspect in which the film strongly fails. This seems to be another film that really doesn’t know what it wants to be and chose a weird comingling of prison comedy and prison escape. On one hand, Harry is hyper aware of all the things that could befall him and Skip while in the prison and freaks out about everything that happens. And at the same time, Skip is blissfully unaware of all these dangers and obliviously tries to make friend with the guards and other inmates. This could make for good comedy, but the follow-throughs aren’t there. And somewhere halfway through the film, Skip, Harry and the crew they’ve gathered become master escape artists and are able to hatch a seamless plan to escape the prison. Thing is that there wasn’t any sort of character development. The two went from hapless morons to being able to create and carry out a plan in nothing flat. Granted, Skip remains a moron, but it comes and goes when the plot deems it necessary.
Further, there’s the inclusion of an idiotically unnecessary romantic subplot between Skip and his attorney’s niece, Meredith. It doesn’t make sense as he’s only charmed her in two meetings, one of which involves him bringing up a favorite film and her falling in love through it. And while that could be a good part of a good romantic subplot, it happens when she and the attorney, Len, are meeting him to try and figure out how to appeal and show that they’re innocent. And then at the end, when she’s only met them twice before and the third time after they’ve broken out and escaped, she goes with him and Harry because by golly she’s fallen head over heels for him.
That's another problem. Though it’s a brilliant plan, they’ve still escaped prison. Now, while they may be innocent for the first crime, there’s still that fact that they’ve escaped prison. Someone is bound to find that they’re not there anymore and there’ll be a hunt for them and since they’ve decided to go ahead to continue with the original idea of going to Hollywood, they’re bound to be caught. Then they’ll just go right back to prison, but this time for a crime they did commit. It’s clear nothing was thought through about this film.
Yet, there are some good moments in the film. Honestly, one does revolve around Skip’s blissfully oblivious characterization. At one point, he’s put into solitary confinement for a few days and instead of turning into a blathering mess, he’s loved it and used it to find himself. So he asks for another day. The other good moment is the plan in and of itself and how it works. It’s practically flawless and the only way someone could figure it out is if they were standing right there and really wanted to find something. The only problem is that there really isn’t any suspense to pulling it off. Though there’s one guard patrolling, he’s never fully alerted. And at one point, it looks like somebody else is about to find out, he’s immediately knocked out and isn’t a problem.
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