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The Strongest Man in the World DVD Review

The Strongest Man in the World movie poster The Strongest Man in the World

Theatrical Release: February 6, 1975 / Running Time: 92 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: Robert Butler / Writers: Joseph L. McEveety, Herman Groves

Cast: Kurt Russell (Dexter Riley), Joe Flynn (Dean Higgins), Eve Arden (Harriet Crumply), Cesar Romero (A.J. Arno), Phil Silvers (Krinkle), Dick Van Patten (Harry), Harold Gould (Dietz), Michael McGreevey (Richard Schuyler), Richard Bakalyan (Cookie), William Schallert (Professor Quigley), Benson Fong (Ah Fong), James Gregory (Chief Blair)

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The adventures at Medfield College continue in The Strongest Man in the World, the third and final film in Disney's series of Dexter Riley comedies.

Close to losing his job, Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) vows to cut down on extraneous spending at Medfield. His first target is the science lab where Dexter (Kurt Russell), Schuyler (Michael McGreevey), and other students try out an assortment of bizarre experiments.

Their latest explorations involve the nutrition of a cow that the school is renting. As Dean Higgins is furiously denouncing the department and firing Professor Quigley (William Schallert), something unexpected happens (as it did the last two times).

Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) is again skeptical of what goes on in the science lab. Dexter (Kurt Russell) reacts to the special cereal with steam coming out of his nose.

The next morning, Dexter has a bowl of cereal unlike any other. As wonderful as cereal normally is, this cereal is especially magical, as it has been affected by the lab experiments. Dexter suddenly discovers a remarkable newfound strength. He rips out doorknobs simply exiting, bends over telephone poles leaning to adjust his footwear, and even balances a portly student and his pal Schuyler.

Dean Higgins sees the value of the students' latest discovery and the next thing you know, he's at the Crumply Crunch offices convincing them that they've got a goldmine coming their way. All they have to do is combine the cereal with the strength-boosting formula.

Crumply Crunch is run by Harriet Crumply (Eve Arden), who has filled up her board with "yes" men related by blood. Among the executives is Harry (Dick Van Patten), who has no qualms about revealing the company's secrets to competitors and to his friend A.J. Arno (Cesar Romero), who is, yes, fresh out of jail again.

Bet Artie could do this too! Dexter shows off his strength to Dean Higgins.

As Arno seeks to find the formula and use it for his gain, Crumply Crunch challenges Krinkle Krunch to a cereal eat-off/weightlifting competition between the musclemen of State U and the everymen of Medfield.

The Strongest Man in the World has a great sense of humor about it. The film contains on-the-target comedy and keeps a tongue-in-cheek tone to its story. Rather than depart from the established conventions, the film embraces them and makes a number of amusing jokes about them. For instance, Schuyler comments that he's been in college for 6 or 7 years; this film was made six years after the original campus comedy, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

The college students are again smarter than all adults, Dean Higgins is still crabby about the school's budget, and A.J. Arno and his dim-witted pal and chauffeur Cookie (Dick Bakalyan) are still shrewdly plotting to outsmart Dexter and the other Medfield students.

Dick Van Patten plays Harry, an unscrupulous member of the Crumply Crunch board. A.J. Arno (Cesar Romero) has a knack for getting out of prison.

The performances are all solid here. Kurt Russell's role is reduced, but his infectious smile and charisma keep Dexter a central presence. Dick Van Patten takes what could be a standard bad guy and infuses him with some quirky personality. The other returning principles - particularly Flynn, Romero, and McGreevey - all deliver their well-defined characters with full energy and humor.

The returning effort, combined with another script which matches the spirit of the series without feeling trite, makes The Strongest Man in the World a strong success of a sequel. What easily could have been a half-hearted retread instead remains a light-hearted romp that lives up to the enjoyable first two films. And though the film does not exactly scream big budget, the special effects are at times remarkably convincing, at least in comparison to the last installment.

Buy The Strongest Man in the World from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Mono (English)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 4, 2004
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99 (Reduced from $19.99)
White Keepcase
Get 4 Disney Movies for $1.99 Each, Free Shipping!

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Strongest Man in the World is presented in fullscreen, and as its predecessor Now You See Him, Now You Don't is anamorphic widescreen on DVD, you reach the conclusion that this is not the original aspect ratio.

Like the first film The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (which is also reformatted for fullscreen), though, the film exhibits surprisingly good video quality. The colors are vibrant, the picture is sharp and crisp, and the imperfections that mar some older Disney films are practically nonexistent.

Main Menu Arno turns to his Asian friend Ah Fong, who prescribes this needle treatment for Schuyler (Michael McGreevey).

While the aspect ratio issue is certainly disappointing, picture quality is otherwise praiseworthy and the fullscreen transfer presented no noticeable framing problems.

The Dolby Digital Mono track isn't as great. The volume levels are inconsistent, and you may either find yourself adjusting it to hear certain dialogue or turning it down when the film's bouncy score, which is overly dynamic, comes up. For the most part, sound quality is an adequate, unspectacular reproduction of a limited Mono sound mix on a modest budget studio comedy.

EXTRAS

The only video besides the film is a 90-second trailer for older live action Disney films on DVD. Unfortunately, there is no extra material on the film itself. The menu screens are static 16x9 screens, accompanied by the film's hip score.

The Medfield Team has spirit and cereal. Kurt Russell celebrates, '70s style.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Strongest Man in the World is a lot of fun, and if you enjoyed either of the other two Dexter Riley films, you'll like this one too. This DVD should be widescreen, and as always, a few extra features would be nice. Nonetheless, it features a strong transfer, so it's got that going for it.

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Related Reviews:
The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972)
More Kurt Russell: The Barefoot Executive Follow Me, Boys! The Fox and the Hound Miracle Sky High
Directed by Vincent McEveety: Million Dollar Duck The Biscuit Eater Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo Herbie Goes Bananas
College: The Misadventures of Merlin Jones Midnight Madness I'll Be Home for Christmas

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Reviewed April 30, 2004.