Gus (1976 film)

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Directed byVincent McEveety
Screenplay byArthur Alsberg
Don Nelson
Story byTed Key
Produced byRon Miller
StarringEdward Asner
Don Knotts
Gary Grimes
Tim Conway
Liberty Williams
Dick Van Patten
Harold Gould
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 sports comedy film released by Walt Disney Productions, distributed by Buena Vista Distribution, 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 California Atoms are the worst team in the NFL and have not won a game in years. Team owner Hank Cooper is deeply in debt to two bookmakers named Charles Gwynn and Cal Wilson. 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. Meanwhile in Yugoslavia, Andy Petrovic lives in the shadow of his older brother, who's a major local soccer star. One day, Andy discovers that the family mule Gus can kick a ball an amazing distance. The mule's talent earns fame and mention in newspapers.

Desperate to draw in fans, team owner Hank Cooper looks for a great halftime show. His secretary, Debbie, sees a story in her parents' Yugoslavian newspaper about Gus, a mule who can play football. 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 Atoms go on to win their next few games thanks to Gus, and move to first place in their division.

Gwynn and Wilson, realizing their deal with Cooper is backfiring, hire two incompetent criminals named Crankcase and Spinner to stop Gus from playing and make the team lose. They try several methods to do so, including getting Gus drunk before he's due to kick. Crankcase and Spinner cause the Atoms to lose two games, but the Atoms still make the playoffs.

With the Atoms headed to the Super Bowl, Spinner and Crankcase steal Gus and replace him with an ordinary mule. At the Super Bowl, Gus' handler 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. A long slapstick chase sequence ensues, ending with Spinner and Crankcase being apprehended and Gus being airlifted to the Super Bowl. The stress of his rescue, however, prompts Gus to collapse on the field as he's about to kick the game-winning field goal, forcing Andy to pick up the ball and run it into the endzone for a touchdown to win the game in the fourth quarter.



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.[7]

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.
  7. ^ Goldsmith, Jill (2020-10-10). "Ex-CIA Boss John Brennan Tells Bill Maher The Deep State Won't Intervene If Trump Steals Election Or Won't Leave". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-04-04.

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