Monday, October 3, 2016

Stir Crazy

Stir Crazy; comedy, USA, 1980; D: Sidney Poitier, S: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Georg Stanford Brown, JoBeth Williams

In order to escape from the cold, wintery New York, and largely unhappy with their lives, writer Harry and actor Skip decide to go south. They settle temporary in a small town and take jobs as birds dancing to promote a bank. However, two robbers take on their costumes and rob the bank—subsequently, Skip and Harry are the prime suspects and are sentenced to jail. However, Skip is chosen by the Warden to participate in the upcoming rodeo competition, where inmates from two prisons compete in ridding a bull, and uses that to escape with Harry and a couple of other inmates. Skip and Harry meet up with their lawyer Meredith, who informs them that the real robbers were apprehended, and that they are free anyway.

Even though their pairing was very popular, all of the four Gene Wilder-Richard Pryor films were weak and overhyped, the reason for that lying in forced humor that too often appealed only to the cheapest taste of the audiences. Their 2nd film, published four years after "The Silver Streak", "Stir Crazy" is by far their most commercial undertaking—it was the 3rd highest grossing film at the US box office that year, grossing over a 100 million $, thereby acquiring 35% of the success of "The Empire Strikes Back", for comparison—yet the reason for such a popularity is rather surprising, and seems more like an accident than a result of some especially funny jokes. It is surprising that "Stir Crazy" was directed by an artist with class and respect, Sidney Poitier, since the movie in question has no class, taste or respect for itself: all of the jokes seem random, thin, improvised on the spot, instead of being prepared or written with inspiration beforehand. One spasmodic joke at the beginning illustrates that low level (Skip wants to make up two people fighting in a bar, and thinks his nice words are working, not realising one guy is nice only because the other one is holding his testicles with pincers)—the viewers hope that the film will offer some better jokes once Wilder and Pryor land in prison, yet its level pretty much stays the same throughout and never truly improves or ignites. Lame, contrived gags are spread throughout the prison segment (Skip panicking when being sent to the cell; Skip pretending to be talking to his mother's ghost in front of the Warden...) and their "punchline rate" is rather low, ultimately leaving an easily watchable, though forgettable spectrum of the movie experience.


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