Gus (1976 film)

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Gus (1976 film) poster.jpg
Directed byVincent McEveety
Screenplay byArthur Alsberg
Don Nelson
Story byTed Key
Produced byRon Miller
StarringDon Knotts
Edward Asner
Gary Grimes
Tim Conway
Harold Gould
Ronnie Schell
Tom Bosley
Louise Williams
Dick Butkus
CinematographyFrank Phillips
Edited byRobert Stafford
Music byRobert F. Brunner
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • July 7, 1976 (1976-07-07)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$21,873,000

Gus is a 1976 American family comedy film by Walt Disney Productions, directed by Vincent McEveety and starring Ed Asner, Don Knotts and Gary Grimes. Its center character is Gus, a football-playing mule.[1][2] The film did well at the box office and was released on home video in 1981.


The film opens in Yugoslavia with the Petrovic family watching their son Stepjan winning a soccer game. Their other son Andy works on his farm, and can't play soccer at all, after falling into the well by accident. One day, Andy discovers Gus can kick a soccer ball long distances when Andy shouts, "Oich".

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, the California Atoms are a professional football team owned by Hank Cooper (Ed Asner) and coached by the inept Coach Venner (Don Knotts). They are the worst team in the league and have not won a game in years. Cooper also owes a lot of money to two mobster bookmakers named Charles Gwynn (Harold Gould) and Cal Wilson (Dick Van Patten). When Cooper tells them he cannot pay his debts, the bookies give him a last chance bet: if the Atoms win the upcoming Super Bowl, all gambling debts will be forgiven, but if they do not win, Gwynn and Wilson will take ownership of the team.

Desperate to draw in fans, Cooper looks for a great half time show. His secretary, Debbie (Louise Williams), sees a story in her parents' Yugoslavian newspaper about Gus. Debbie flies to Yugoslavia and hires Gus and Andy. After Gus is a hit in his first halftime show, Cooper and Venner decide to put him in the game as a place kicker. The other team protests, but as the rule book does not require a player to be human, Cooper allows Gus to kick. Since Gus is able to kick a field goal from anywhere in the field, the Atoms win. The Atoms go on to win their next few games thanks to Gus, and move to first place in their division. The only catch is that Gus will only kick when Andy holds the ball and shouts the command. Debbie is assigned to watch over Andy and Gus, since she can speak Serbian. A romance begins between them, aided by Gus.

Gwynn and Wilson, realizing their deal with Cooper is backfiring, hire two incompetent criminals named Crankcase (Tim Conway) and Spinner (Tom Bosley) to stop Gus from playing and make the team lose. Through their schemes, Crankcase and Spinner cause the Atoms to lose two games. Despite the losses, the Atoms make the playoffs. Andy becomes a celebrity, but his parents remain unimpressed, saying he only holds the ball for Gus.

Before the playoff game, Spinner convinces Andy that Debbie has been injured in a car accident. When Andy arrives at the hospital, Crankcase locks him up. Without Andy, Gus refuses to kick, and the Atoms fall behind. In the final quarter, Debbie dresses up in Andy's uniform and convinces Gus to kick a field goal, scoring the winning points. Andy, who managed to escape, arrives after the game is over. He tells Debbie his father is right: Andy is nothing, and anyone can hold the ball for Gus.

With the Atoms headed to the Super Bowl, Spinner and Crankcase steal Gus and replace him with an ordinary mule. Spinner and Crankcase check into a local hotel and lock up Gus with them. Gus breaks the TV and the hotel room door. At the Super Bowl, Andy quickly realizes the mule he has is not Gus, and he and Cooper leave by helicopter to search for Gus. When the two criminals watch the game on TV, Gus goes wild and escapes. In a long slapstick sequence, Crankcase and Spinner chase Gus into a local supermarket where they unsuccessfully attempt to recapture the mule. The criminals make a huge mess in the supermarket, including tearing up a bag of flour, stepping on bottles of Ketchup and Mustard, making a mess of themselves, destroying tomatoes and dinnerware displays, getting in the way of a strong man who beats one of them up, landing in a basket of balls for children, falling into a live lobster tank, and finally, attempting to ride Gus, who throws one of them into a huge ready-made cake, destroying it completely. Running from the supermarket, Spinner and Crankcase are apprehended for mule napping and for causing an extended amount of damages in the supermarket. Gus is spotted from the air by Andy and Cooper. They airlift Gus to the Super Bowl and arrive in the fourth quarter.

With Gus back in the game, the Atoms make a comeback. With 3 seconds left on the clock, the Atoms are down 16–15 with the ball on their own 5-yard line. Gus lines up for a field goal attempt, but slips in the mud and misses the football. In the scramble for the ball, Gus knocks it over to Andy, who runs 95 yards for the touchdown. Andy and team walk off the field to celebrate their win.



This is the only one of their six films together where Don Knotts and Tim Conway do not share any scenes.

Johnny Unitas appears as a commentator with Bob Crane (in his last feature film appearance) supplying the play-by-play during the football broadcasts. Dick Enberg did the play-by-play for the local games.

Gus would be the final feature film for Bob Crane as well as the last film in the promising, yet short career of then 20-year-old Grimes, who retired from acting (except for a single television role in 1983) after this film. This was also the final film appearance of Virginia O'Brien.


Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four and wrote, "Two different kinds of movies have been coming out of the Walt Disney organization in the last few years: Inventive, entertaining fantasies like Escape to Witch Mountain and The Island at the Top of the World, and dreary retreads of tired old Disney formulas. 'Gus,' alas, is in the retread category."[2] Richard Eder of The New York Times called it "a decently average Disney film, with a few funny parts and other parts where you would agree to smile if you could. Where the movie tries the hardest, it fails the most, as in a terribly long and trite comedy sequence in a supermarket."[3] Joseph McBride of Variety called it "a pleasant family comedy" that "has the amiable spirit of a tall tale or kiddie story book, and while the plot mechanics are largely predictable, the cast keeps the ball in the air over the 96-minute running time."[4] Linda Gross of the Los Angeles Times described it as "a funny and loveable, though familiar Disney live-action fantasy film for football families."[5] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post found the film's pace "sluggish" and added, "After a while it becomes impossible to share the kids' glee in the sort of pratfall you can see coming 10 seconds in advance." He conceded, however, that "there's no point in denying or fighting the kick children get out of even mediocre slapstick."[6]

In later media[edit]

In Herbie Goes Bananas (1980), a partygoer wearing an Atoms jersey is briefly seen during a masquerade ball scene.

The 1997 Love Bug repurposes character name "Hank Cooper" for the mechanic (Bruce Campbell) who meets Herbie.

Gus can be summoned as a mount in the video games Disney Infinity 2.0 (2014) and Disney Infinity 3.0 (2015) via power disc. In gameplay Gus kicks footballs as his attack.

Bill Maher invoked the film during the October 9, 2020 episode of HBO political talk show Real Time with Bill Maher, warning that Donald Trump would attempt to "Gus" the 2020 United States presidential election by exploiting a lack of written laws against certain behaviors.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gus (1976) - Overview -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 3 November 2014.
  2. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (July 13, 1976). "Gus". Retrieved July 31, 2019.
  3. ^ Eder, Richard (August 7, 1976). "Screen: Disney's 'Gus'". The New York Times. 11.
  4. ^ McBride, Joseph (June 30, 1976). "Film Reviews: Gus". Variety. 20, 32.
  5. ^ Gross, Linda (July 6, 1976). "Football Fun From Disney". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 13.
  6. ^ Arnold, Gary (July 15, 1976). "Putting Some Kick in Movie Comedy". The Washington Post. C13.

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