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The World's Greatest Athlete
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Reviews & Ratings for
The World's Greatest Athlete More at IMDbPro »

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Funny, funny, funny!!!!!!

8/10
Author: ColemanDerrick from Decatur, Georgia
24 July 2001

This is one of the funniest film's of Disney's live action library. Taking another spin on the tale of Tarzan, The World's Greatest Athlete is the story of how college coach Sam Archer, tired of losing, tries to get away from it all by taking a trip to Africa. While there, he encounters Nanu, a superhuman by any standards measured!!! Seeing a gold mine and wins with Nanu as his athlete on campus, Coach Archer lures him to their university, where Nanu indeed excels in sports, but also feels homesick. Good jokes and tasteful humor make this a must-see. Jon Amos and Tim Conway are great as the bumbling coaches, and Jan-Michael Vincent shows that he could act wonderfully within a comedic setting. Also, this is one of the movies that displays Vincent's prowess, and makes people wonder what could have been. While younger viewers may not know of Vincent, or wonder why anyone cares about a "second rate actor", there was a time when many movie fans felt that Vincent could have been a major box office draw. While Nanu ultimately proves that he is a champion, Vincent will always make people ponder if he could have been a real Hollywood contender.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Lots of fun for everyone

10/10
Author: rdfrd from United States
21 August 2005

Silly? You bet - and don't we love silly. A fish out of water? Most certainly - and aren't we all, at one time or another, a fish out of water. Loads of fun? Most definitely. The story line comes from the fertile imagination of someone impacted by Tarzan, but Tarzan was never this much fun. From Africa to America, covering a whole bunch of different types of people, including a tiger and a near-sighted landlady, The World's Greatest Athlete provides humor and a wonderful chance to relax. It gives you a happy chance to laugh at yourself and everyone else. The whole family will enjoy it. Our family found it a favorite when it first came out - and now that I am retired I still enjoy having a laugh at it now and then.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

I was lucky enough........

10/10
Author: Cruisinangel2004 from United States
13 February 2005

I was lucky enough to be able to see part of "Athlete" being made at my college in Stockton, California in 1972.I also got to meet Jan-Michael Vincent, John Amos and Tim Conway.I also had a confrontation with the tiger. Those memories will be something I won't forget. To top it off, John Amos and Tim Conway also made a surprise visit to my parents, cousin, and Aunt's restaurant also located in Stockton, California. It was called "Al Funzo's.It was a great evening for me, and my family, and the Restaurant patrons that came in that night.As for the movie, The World's Greatest Athlete" was and still is excellent, and ranks high in my list of favorite movies.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Silly Fun

6/10
Author: FrankBooth-1 (FrankBooth@aemail4u.com)
24 April 2002

This is a fish out of water story in which coach John Amos and sidekick Tim Conway find a young jungle man and figure he'd be a great athlete if he were taken to civilization to compete in athletic competitions. So they give it a try. Like many Disney films from the early 1970s, it's loaded with silly humor and contrived sentiment, yet there is a certain charm that may endear it to the younger members of its audience.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

"Me Nanu.......You Jane"

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
24 April 2009

When Coach John Amos and his assistant Tim Conway go looking for athletic talent for Merryvale College, they say they'll travel anywhere. And in The World's Greatest Athlete they go to East Africa in search of a legendary jungle boy raised in the wild whose athletic prowess is beyond belief.

The subject of their search is Jan-Michael Vincent who plays the young Tarzan like man and he's every inch the athlete that former Tarzans like Johnny Weissmuller, Glenn Morris, and Buster Crabbe were. They have to use a little trickery to get him out of the jungle and away from his foster father, witch doctor Roscoe Lee Browne. Browne knows all the jungle remedies, but he's lived in the world outside the Kenyan veld and he's up to its challenges.

But he's still got concern for his foster son who ain't used to civilization and all the things that entails. Among which include women in the person of shapely Dayle Haddon who covers him on the academic end of things at college. Talk about remedial education though, this is really stretching it.

She's also got a jealous suitor in Danny Goldman. Goldman's a little ferret of a schemer, the would be Iago sends for Browne from Kenya to work his voodoo magic to get Vincent back to the woodland wilds and a clear path for Goldman back to Haddon. If that means him losing the big NCAA track meet where Vincent is going to represent Maryvale in all events like Jim Thorpe did years ago for Carlisle, so be it.

Jan-Michael Vincent looks just fabulous in a loin cloth. I'm surprised he never was cast in a straight out Tarzan film. He actually did appear in one years later when he was much older and the bad guy in that one. Of course he just had to utter "Me Nanu.......You Jane" to Haddon whose character name of course was Jane.

Vincent and Haddon get great support from the whole cast, especially Tim Conway who has to deal with being shrunk to three inches in height by Browne in a bar. Conway gets a nice fifteen minute sequence trying to deal with his unfamiliar surroundings. Nancy Walker has a fine bit as a Mrs. Magoo landlady who can't recognize a tiger that Vincent has brought from Africa as a pet. He must have gotten him from the zoo in Mombasa because as most kids know, tigers aren't native to Africa.

This was the final feature film appearance of Billy DeWolfe who plays the dean of the college and Goldman's uncle. I suspect he would have had more of a role had health permitted it.

The World's Greatest Athlete is one of Disney's better screen comedies for the Seventies. And as we learn in the end, Jan-Michael Vincent might not just be The World's Greatest Athlete.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

70's Disney Family Fun

7/10
Author: C. Sean Currie (hypestyle) from detroit, MI
4 October 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The World's Greatest Athlete" stars John Amos ("Good Times), Tim Conway ("The Carol Burnett Show"), and Jan-Michael Vincent ("Airwolf"). The plot follows Amos' college sports coach who is down on his luck. His leadership has not produced a winning team for his school; he is under threat of being fired if he doesn't find a way to turn the sports program around. On a vacation to Africa, he and Conway discover Nanu—an orphaned Caucasian boy who was the son of missionaries, he was adopted by local villagers. He is a superb athlete, being able to outrun a gazelle. The coach sees his fortunes right in front of him—but Nanu is uninterested in the Western world. So the coach concocts a scheme to trick Nanu into following him to America, where he promptly is enrolled as a student and made a star of the track and field program. Will the coach's deception be revealed? Will Nanu find that he likes America and wants to stay? The under-rated character actor Roscoe Lee Browne plays a witchdoctor in a supporting role. Of curious interest is how the racial subtexts in the film were cleverly handled. By the early 70's, Disney studios was not known for casting African-Americans in prominent roles—the most obvious exception would be the still-controversial Song of the South. Here, Amos is the ostensible lead, with Conway as the sidekick, instead of vice-versa. In another decade, the Nordic athlete Nanu might have been portrayed as being worshipped as a god by the villagers—fortunately the filmmakers bypass outdated notions of the "white jungle king" and portray Nanu as a young man satisfied with tribal life.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

The World's Greatest Athlete was an amusing enough Disney comedy from the '70s

6/10
Author: tavm from Baton Rouge, LA
2 June 2010

After a few decades of knowing about this '70s Disney comedy, I finally took my borrowed DVD and watched The World's Greatest Athlete. In this one, Coach John Amos and his assistant Tim Conway have been on the losing end of various sports endeavors for so long that dean Billy De Wolfe (in a too-brief role)-who's accompanied by his son Danny Goldman-remind them of just one more year on their contract. Amos tears it up and goes to Africa with Conway to get away from it all. There they find Jan-Michael Vincent who outruns a tiger. The only way they can get him, though, is if he saves one of them...I'll stop there and just say that this is one of those silly family comedies that was the House of Mickey's bread-and-butter during the decade that the other major studios were making big box office and winning Oscars with more mature fare. With the Tarzan-inspired story and many well-established special effects, there are quite a few chuckles here-and even a big laugh concerning a wheelchair-bound old man who can "suddenly" walk-that I admit to doing while watching. And it's fun seeing Conway either putting his head where it sometimes doesn't belong or getting moved by a voodoo doll once owned by a witch doctor played by Roscoe Lee Browne. But the stuff involving Nancy Walker as a near-sighted landlady and Goldman as the dean's interloping son I could do without. And stunning Dayle Haddon as Vincent's girlfriend (called Jane, of course) is just window dressing. Still, this is harmless fare that should provide enough enjoyable distraction for 90 minutes especially as you watch such real-life announcers like Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell join in on the fun. P.S. I just found out, via the IMDb site, that Mr. Goldman was the voice of Brainy Smurf on the "Smurfs" TV cartoon show.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Jan Michael Vincent - cuddling and wrestling with a REAL TIGER!!!!!!

7/10
Author: robespierre9 from Colorado
4 November 2008

If you are a fan of Jan Michael Vincent and would like to see him with very little threads on, this is the film for you! Yes, there's also a cute plot about a black football/baseball/basketball coach (John Amos) who travels to Africa on safari with his hopelessly stupid assistant (Tim Conway). While in Africa, they discover Nanu (Jan Michael Vincent)a young white African boy who possesses amazing athletic abilities. Nanu travels to the USA with the coach to excel in sports. Of course his witch-doctor adoptive father disapproves, and all sorts of goofy 70's effects ensue. JMV wouldn't be remembered for his acting in this movie, but his physique certainly got attention! He's slim and muscular, with long blond hair, and he looks perfect in the skimpy Tarzan outfits. But really, the star of this film is the TIGER! You never see this in movies today - a real, live, full-size tiger wrestling with the leading actor! With his teeth around JMV's neck, no less!! Can you imagine? One false move, and CRUNCH! Dead actor! Wow. I was amazed. JMV cuddles and rolls around with this Tiger throughout the movie. It's awesome. Move on over Russell Crowe - Jan Michael Vincent takes on real tigers, not CGI ones!!!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

...but not the world's greatest movie.

Author: Poseidon-3 from Cincinnati, OH
28 April 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One in a long series of formulaic, "teenager with a difference" Disney comedies, this movie is of interest mainly for its cast and its occasional bits of amusement accidentally tossed in amongst the tedium. Amos plays a college athletics coach, who leaves on a sojourn to Africa with his assistant Conway in tow, after suffering yet another humiliatingly bad season. While there to forget his troubles, he is introduced to Vincent, a spectacularly talented young man who is the orphaned child of missionaries and who has been raised in the wild. He can outrun a cheetah, out-jump a monkey and basically outdo anyone or anything in the realm of sports. In an extended sequence, Amos coerces him to return to his school (with his pet tiger along for the adventure!) and play for his track & field team. Since Vincent has been in the jungle his entire life, he needs a tutor to help him with his college subjects (!) and so Amos enlists pretty Haddon to help him. This leads the jealous and devious Goldman to retrieve Vincent's witch doctor mentor Browne from the continent and have him taken back, out of the way. Browne uses voodoo to foul up Amos's dreams of glory for Vincent and to keep Conway from alerting Amos to his presence. Naturally, it all ends well, this being a Disney movie. Amos (who made something of a historic footnote by playing the first black lead in a Disney film in decades) is animated and enthusiastic in his role, though a bit one note. It's hard to imagine that the man here, straining to make a lot of tired jokes funny and overplaying a lot of them, is the same one who stormed off of "Good Times" because of the scripts and who later made such an impact in "Roots." Conway's improvisational style sort of butts up uncomfortably against the carefully structured formula comedy found here and his timing seems off as a result, though he does have an amusing extended sequence in which he is shrunken to the size of a doll and knocked around inside a purse and around a bar area. Vincent, who, naturally, is in peak shape here, is hilariously bad in his acting, but impressive in the action sequences. It's also quite stunning to see him (and Amos, Conway and Walker!) cavorting with a real tiger in the film! Haddon, not coincidentally playing a girl named Jane, has a rather sensuous moment with Vincent as she's tutoring him, but otherwise isn't given much to do. (She would famously appear in Playboy right after filming this, confounding the Disney executives!) Browne is clearly enjoying his sly, magical role and has a lot of fun disrupting things and yanking the chains of those around him. Walker tries to inject some humor into her preposterous role of a nearly blind landlady who keeps mistaking the tiger for an inebriated tenant. Some real life sportscasters appear to lend an air of authenticity to the patently unreal proceedings, chiefly Gifford, McKay and Cosell, who has trouble playing himself, though he does tick off an amusing line or two along the way. It's not a bad movie, it's just a very routine one with humor that had to be a tad stale even at the time of release.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Silly Fun

6/10
Author: FrankBooth-1 (FrankBooth@aemail4u.com)
24 April 2002

This is a fish out of water story in which coach John Amos and sidekick Tim Conway find a young jungle man and figure he'd be a great athlete if he were taken to civilization to compete in athletic competitions. So they give it a try. Like many Disney films from the early 1970s, it's loaded with silly humor and contrived sentiment, yet there is a certain charm that may endear it to the younger members of its audience.

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