The World’s Greatest Athlete (1973)

Article 3932 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-10-2012
Posting Date: 5-20-2012
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Featuring Tim Conway, Jan-Michael Vincent, John Amos
Country: USA
What it is: Shopping cart movie

A coach discovers a boy in the jungles of Zambia who has incredible athletic powers, and tricks the boy into coming back to American with him. But what will happen when the boy’s witch doctor godfather comes to take him back home?

For some reason, I was incredibly eager to see this movie back when I was in Junior High. In retrospect, I think it was the presence of top-billed Tim Conway, a comic actor who I loved from his work on “The Carol Burnett Show”. I never did get a chance to see the movie in a theater, but I caught it several years later on TV … and was promptly underwhelmed. The script is one of the weakest of the Disney shopping cart movies, and the direction is uninspired and pedestrian. As for Conway, he’s stuck in a role that doesn’t play to his strengths, and his comic dialogue is pretty lame; his best moment is when he’s under the spell of a voodoo doll made in his image, which emphasizes physical shtick instead of dialogue. In fact, the best performance here is from Roscoe Lee Browne, who plays Gazenga the witch doctor; it may be a silly role, but Browne plays it with a charming confidence and an authority that transcends the silliness. Actually, the most impressive thing about the film is the presence of a tiger who actually seems to be interacting with the actors and not just trainers; this must have been one well-trained animal.

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