Plot: Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) is in hot water, as his school faces serious financial issues and Higgins is being blamed for misuse of funds. He looks into the science department, which happens to be running an experiment involving vitamins and a cow, with students trying to find just the right formula. Higgins is baffled by the experiment and shuts it down, but not before he spills some of the test materials all over the place. Dexter (Kurt Russell) is one of the students and when he eats of the cereal that the spilled vitamin mixes went into, he notices some changes. The goal of the experiment was to make the cow stronger, but now the cereal has made Dexter stronger, as in nearly superhuman strength, at least for a short while. Higgins learns of the success and sees a chance to save the school, if he can sell the vitamin formula to a cereal company, that is. But when things don’t go as planned and a rival tries to sabotage the deal, can Dexter and his fellow students save the day?
Entertainment Value: This is a hokey, but fun live action Disney movie, one of the myriad of such films Kurt Russell starred in the for studio in this period. I don’t think anyone will claim The Strongest Man in the World is high art, but it is a fun movie, provided you can appreciate a corny, old school brand of humor. The story is silly, which is to be expected in this case, but focuses more on outlandish characters than plot, so it is easy to just roll with the wackiness. This is especially true since a colorful, enjoyable ensemble was put together for the movie, ensuring that even in the slower scenes, the talented performers can keep you interested. I think the movie works best in the first half, as the second half is more narrative driven and I think the light, silly character work in the first half is more fun. But the second half is passable, just not quite as off the wall or humorous. The pace is fine however, as the movie is still brisk, just a little more deliberate than the earlier madcap style humor. Of course, if you don’t like zany antics and hokey humor, then you will likely not have as much fun with this one. But if you like the cornball humor and wackiness of Disney’s live action 70s films, give The Strongest Man in the World a spin.
He was a staple of Disney’s live action movies from this era, so it is no surprise that Kurt Russell shows up here in a prominent role. The promotional materials put him front and center and that is mostly accurate, especially in the first half, but the movie is very much an ensemble piece. Even so, Russell has a good deal of screen time and performs in line with similar Disney projects from his run there, which means light humor and of course, his signature charm. Russell was quite young here and still developing as a performer, but you can see the potential in spades even here and he is able to get the most out of his scenes. I think it is fun to see such a different side of Russell, though he would retain his sense of humor and charm, even as an action hero. I think the funniest role here belongs to Joe Flynn however, who goes over the top in hilarious ways as Dean Higgins. His facial expressions and mannerisms are quite humorous here and his banter is top notch as well, so he really delivers on his part. The cast also includes Phil Silvers, Dick Van Patten, Cesar Romero, and Harold Gould.