Wilder & Pryor's Greensboro Redemption
Out of the 4 movies which Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor collaborated on as actors "Stir Crazy" is probably my favourite, delivering an abundance of humour and quick fire banter which manages to make even the most stupid of gags enjoyable. Which is a good thing because as is often the case the actual storyline behind "Stir Crazy" isn't that amazing and all you need to do is think of any comedy prison movie, such as "Life" and "The Longest Yard" and you will get the idea of what "Stir Crazy" is about. Yes that means we get the two unfortunate prisoners trying to fit into prison life and all the humour surrounding it. But even so it's not disappointing because "Stir Crazy" is not a movie which trades on a good storyline but on the humour of the situation.
After both losing their jobs, best friends Skip Donahue (Gene Wilder - Blazing Saddles) and Harry Monroe (Richard Pryor - Silver Streak) decide to escape the noise of New York and head out to California. But on their way they find themselves being accused of a bank robbery and sentenced to 125 years in Greensboro prison. As they try to adjust to life behind bars the Warden Walter Beatty (Barry Corbin - No Country for Old Men) discovers that Skip has an unlikely talent for bronco riding and plans to exploit this at the annual prison rodeo competition. Except Harry, Skip and a bunch of friendly inmates have other plans.
Having said that "Stir Crazy" is a movie which trades on humour more than story there are some entertaining back storylines as it sets up the characters of Skip and Harry as well as their friendship. In many ways it is the build up which is where "Stir Crazy" is at its best because it's not just a series of expected routine scenes. The various scenes such as Skip trying to stop a fight in the bar between a cabbie and a passenger are brilliant at setting up the characters and delivering humour at the same time.
But to be honest a strong, well thought out storyline is not really what you expect or even want when you watch "Stir Crazy". It is first and for mostly a comedy to showcase the comic talents of Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor and as such it is first class. Director Sidney Poitier, yes the famous actor, has obviously allowed Wilder and Pryor to adlib their way through many scenes and in doing so allowed the movie to naturally flow with quick fire repartee which all feels natural. It's this side of the movie, the buddy relationship which is where it is at it's most funny, making the most stupid of things laughable. Plus of course Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor work so well together, seemingly in tune with each others thoughts that there is rarely a moment when one of them isn't delivering a gag.
Aside from Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor there are some nice performances, Craig T. Nelson does a good job of playing a comically mean prison guard as does Barry Corbin as the scheming and greasy Warden Walter Beatty. Probably the most memorable performance though comes from Erland van Lidth as the humungous Grossberger with the singing scene being both funny and memorable.
What this all boils down to is that "Stir Crazy" is one of my favourite, if not my favourite, movie from Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Their comedy partnership is on fine form as they take both the stupid and various traditional scenes from the prison genre and making them memorably funny. The storyline itself is not really that important playing more as a vehicle for their humour and for once it is not a disappointment for doing so because what storyline there is, is just enough to make the movie more than just one set piece gag after another.