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Stir Crazy (1980)

Updated on August 5, 2010

Having both been fired from work, friends Harry Monroe (Richard Pryor - See No Evil, Hear No Evil) and Skip Donahue (Gene Wilder - Silver Streak) decide they have had enough of city life and head off on the road in search of a new career in California. But after stopping off in a small town to make some quick money they end up being mistaken for a couple of bank robbers and are sentenced to 125 years in Greensboro prison. Forced to live behind bars they do their best to fit in, but end up annoying the Warden who discovers Skip has a natural talent for bronco riding and plans to use him at the annual prison rodeo. But Skip, Harry and a group of heir inmate friends have other plans when it comes to the rodeo.

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor made 4 movies together of varying standards and out of those 4 "Stir Crazy" is for me the best, delivering the quick fire banter which Wilder and Pryor were so good at and a series of gags which might be as daft as they come but are still entertaining. Which it has to be said is a good thing because the storyline to "Stir Crazy" is at it's heart no different to any comedy prison movie, meaning we watch them try and escape. If you've seen the likes of "The Longest Yard" and "Life" then you will know what to expect especially when it comes to the various set piece prison jokes. But despite being at it's heart similar to other prison comedies "Stir Crazy" works because of the comic chemistry of Wilder and Pryor.

Thankfully before we get to the all so familiar prison element of "Stir Crazy" we are treated to a great build up which introduces us to Harry and Skip with them both getting fired from their jobs, one for a Ganja fuelled dinner party and one for accusing a woman of shop lifting. It's this build up which makes "Stir Crazy" feel more than you're average prison comedy and the bar scene involving a cabbie, a passenger and a pair of pliers attatched to someone's delicate regions is pure comedy.

The thing is "Stir Crazy" is an out and out comedy and you don't expect or need a clever storyline, you just want comedy and it most certainly showcases the comedy talents of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. In many way it is thanks to director Sidney Poitier that "Stir Crazy" is so funny because you get a sense that he has allowed Wilder and Pryor to improvise their scenes, riffing off each other rather than just reciting scripted gags giving it a more natural feel and flow. As such the buddy relationship really works and you can't imagine anyone else other than Wilder and Pryor pulling it off so effectively.

Of course Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor are not the only stars and Craig T. Nelson is amusing as the stereotypical nasty prison guard as is Barry Corbin as the scheming prison warden. Plus of course there is Erland van Lidth who is memorable for both his size and singing voice as the humungous Grossberger.

All in all "Stir Crazy" is still a marvellously funy film even 30 years after it was originaly releases. It's the best collabortation fo Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor and although the story is for the most familiar their rapid banter and comedy timing brings it all together brilliantly.


Title: Stir Crazy
Year: 1980
Length: 108 mins
Certificate: 15
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Director: Sidney Poitier
Cast: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Barry Corbin, Nicolas Coster, Erland van Lidth


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