After achieving considerable fame separately, funnymen Tim Conway and Don Knotts made several films together, mostly in the ’70s, that became popular among children but didn’t curry much favor from grown-ups. For instance, The Prize Fighter—a PG-rated flick, as opposed to the duo’s usual G-rated fare—gets mired in so many numbingly predictable plot twists that it’s too tedious for very young kids to enjoy, even as the picture’s reliance on lame physical-comedy shtick ensures the film is too stupid for sensible adults to tolerate. Set in the Depression, The Prize Fighter follows dim-witted losers Bags (Conway), a former boxer, and Shake (Knotts), a former boxing manager. Through incredibly convoluted circumstances, these two get involved with a brutal mobster named Mike (Robin Clarke). It seems Mike wants to use Bags and Shake to swindle Pop Morgan (David Wayne), the owner of a boxing gym that Mike wants to raze for development purposes. Mike arranges for Bags to re-enter the boxing ring as a contender for the world championship, and Mike fixes all of Bags’ fights except the last one—while also tricking Pop Morgan into betting his gym on Bags’ victory. The storyline in The Prize Fighter never quite gels, since it’s predicated on every character except the villain being a complete idiot, and it’s hard to care much what happens to Bags, who is portrayed as a brainless man-child, or Shake, who is portrayed as a whiny sycophant happy to let Bags do all the dirty work. And when trite devices like training montages and a weepie storyline about an orphaned kid are thrown into the mix, The Prize Fighter becomes a chore to watch, no matter how innocent its intentions. Conway must shoulder much of the blame for this lifeless movie, since he co-wrote the script in addition to starring, and TV-hack director Michael Preece does Conway no favors with colorless direction that’s way too obviously patterned after the style George Roy Hill used for another comedy set in the Depression, The Sting (1973).
The Prize Fighter: LAME