Two hapless best friends are sentenced to life in prison for a crime they
didn't commit and conspire to escape during the annual prison rodeo.
Stir Crazy (1980)
Directed by Sidney Poitier
Written by Bruce Jay Friedman
Starring Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, JoBeth Williams,
Georg Stanford Brown, Miguel Ángel Suárez, Craig T. Nelson,
Erland van Lidth, Joel Brooks, Barry Corbin
Stir Crazy is equal parts decent comedy and lukewarm Wilder/Pryor collaboration. It's a film that doesn't quite know which story it wants to tell, so it ends up telling the wrong one and loses its luster. The first half is hysterical, from the introduction to our witless protagonists all the way to their unlawful incarceration. It's once they're in prison and the whole rodeo thing takes center stage that it loses me, which is a shame because it had real potential with two of comedy's biggest icons.
Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were well known for their fantastic chemistry and Stir Crazy shows that off like, well, crazy. Wilder plays Skip Donahue, an optimist with a heart of gold who can't help but see the sunny side of everything. Pryor is Harry Monroe, a realist who keeps trying to get Skip to understand exactly how screwed they often are. Watching them bicker is great fun and without them, this film wouldn't be the cult comedy classic it's become.
Stir Crazy is a funny movie that becomes increasingly less funny as it progresses. As soon as the rodeo is introduced, the laughs become less and less frequent, solely relying on Wilder and Pryor's impeccable comedic timing to keep the film afloat. I've yet to see their other collaborations, but as far as I'm concerned, this is probably one of their better ones even if it isn't quite what I'd hoped for.