After the success of Silver Streak, Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor were cast as the leads in Stir Crazy, a comedy from 1980 about two friends on a road trip across America who are mistaken for bank robbers and sent to prison after a particularly harsh ruling.
We follow Skip (Wilder) and Harry (Pryor) as they enter the Southern prison and try to survive as long as possible behind bars while their lawyer attempts to prove their innocence. Skip is the optimistic writer who believes there is good in everyone and Harry is the realist who just wants to keep his head down. Later on, when the warden is testing prisoners to take part in a rodeo competition, Skip proves himself to be a natural and agrees to ride in the hope of somehow using this opportunity to plan some kind of jail break. There's something almost tragic about seeing these two innocent guys being sent to such an unforgiving place and Sidney Poitier's film does have its dark Cool Hand Luke moments but it's also funny enough to not feel too much like a bummer.
Stir Crazy takes a not particularly funny concept set in one of the most grim settings imaginable and somehow finds the humour through the characters and how they deal with this unfortunate situation. Wilder and Pryor shine throughout, proving themselves to be one of the great comedy duos but also genuinely good dramatic actors. Wilder is tasked with the most challenging role of staying ridiculously upbeat and energetic no matter what awful things he's being put through and he even gets a romantic subplot which isn't all that necessary but works nonetheless. The third act is surprisingly suspenseful as we see the team's plan unfold while Craig T. Nelson's mean prison guard attempts to sabotage Skip's rodeo efforts and the laughs end up taking a back seat to the adventure which makes Stir Crazy a more serious movie than, say, See No Evil, Hear No Evil.
Stir Crazy is a fun Wilder/Pryor collaboration packed with very funny lines and memorable moments so it's definitely well worth checking out. These characters' trials may get a bit depressing at times but with a comedy duo this good, it's simply impossible not to have a great time.