Saturday, May 10, 2014

Gus (1976)



Live-action Disney movies from the ’70s often courted abject stupidity but remained watchable thanks to charming acting and energetic physical comedy. Alas, some of the studio’s pictures from this era were so moronic that even the valiant efforts of skilled comic performers were insufficient to maintain interest. For example, Gus is about a Yugoslavian mule named Gus that becomes an NFL field-goal kicker. The folks at Disney loved telling stories about animals becoming involved in human endeavors, with the innate cuteness of, say, chimpanzees or dogs providing much of the appeal. Yet calling a mule “cute” is a stretch—even when the filmmakers dress the titular animal in a custom-built football helmet and jersey. Plus, the mildly amusing image of Gus kicking field goals loses its novelty quickly. The movie’s insipid plot revolves around a dismal NFL team that enlists the mule out of desperation, thereby attracting the attention of nefarious types who don’t want the scheme to succeed. Struggling to make all of this bearable is a solid cast of Disney regulars and familiar actors from the worlds of film and television. Gary Grimes, the earnest young star of ’70s films including Summer of ’42 (1971), concluded his brief feature career by starring as Andy Petrovic, Gus’ handler. Grimes shares most of his scenes with Ed Asner, who plays a team owner; Don Knotts, who plays a coach; and real-life former NFL player Dick Butkus, who plays Gus’ gridiron rival. (Forgettable starlet Louise Williams portrays Andy’s love interest.) Other pros appearing in Gus include Bob Crane, Harold Gould, and Dick Van Patten, with Happy Days guy Tom Bosley and slapstick favorite Tim Conway forming a comic team as crooks hired to menace the mule. Suffice to say that the “highlight” of the movie is the interminable climax during which Bosley and Conway chase Gus through a grocery store, causing lots of property damage in the process. Like many of Disney’s lesser offerings, Gus is harmless and might amuse very small children, but it’s a grim 95 minutes for grown-up viewers.

Gus: LAME

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