How to Frame a Figg

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
How to Frame a Figg Movie Poster Image
Campy Don Knotts comedy with some juvenile humor.
  • G
  • 1971
  • 103 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

There's a David and Goliath theme, with the dimwitted underling taking on the corrupt bigwig and winning.

Positive Role Models & Representations

For all his bumbling, clumsiness, and obliviousness, Hollis Figg is an honest man who tries to see the good in people and is inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt.


There is an extended comic car chase in which Hollis Figg is being tailed by an ambulance, and Figg has nowhere to pull over on the narrow road. Later in the film, a man dies during a meeting and his body is hidden in a closet.


While watching her server innocently flirt with Hollis Figg, the owner of a restaurant says to the server, "I hope you're on the pill." Some mild sexual innuendo.


An elderly character who is the richest man in town frequently refers to the city officials he meets with as "poop heads." At a meeting, this same man asks to see the secretary with the "big maguffies."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

While meeting with Hollis, the mayor pours himself a shot of liquor and drinks it. Hollis' secretary invites him into her apartment and pours him drinks; Hollis then acts comically drunk -- slurring his speech, repeating his words, stumbling.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How to Frame a Figg is a silly 1971 slapstick comedy starring Don Knotts that feels dated thanks to ridiculously large supercomputers and women as seductive administrative assistants. In one scene, Knotts drinks alcohol and acts comically drunk by slurring his speech, repeating words, and stumbling. An older character frequently refers to those around him as "poop heads." A character makes a joke about "the pill."

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What's the story?

Hollis Alexander Figg (Don Knotts) is a bumbling but earnest accountant working for the city hall of a small town. When the richest man in town concocts a get-rich scam of the taxpayers with the mayor and other local bigwigs, they decide to fire all the city hall accountants except for Figg, who they have determined to be too dumb and oafish to ever catch on to what they're doing. They even go so far as to bring in a wall-sized "supercomputer" to help fudge the numbers, but in spite of this, Figg starts to realize that something is wrong. When the corrupt civic leaders realize they cannot shake the relentless Figg, they decide to frame Figg for their crimes, and it is up to Figg, with help from his garbage man best friend (Frank Welker) and waitress girlfriend (Elaine Joyce), to prove his innocence and expose the wrongdoing of the civic leaders.

Is it any good?

HOW TO FRAME A FIGG is not the most sophisticated comedy out there, but when it's a movie starring Don Knotts, you really wouldn't want it to be. What makes Don Knotts such an enjoyable presence on screen is in the way he makes such a bumbling and oafish character like Hollis Figg an ultimately likeable character, one in whom you find yourself rooting for as he takes on the city hall muckety-mucks.

How to Frame a Figg is, however, a very dated movie. If it was only the wall-sized supercomputer coughing out note cards, that would be fine, but when the only way a woman has of entering the higher ranks of city hall is by acting like a seductive administrative assistant, the charm is lost. Still, with the right attitude and expectations, this is an enjoyable movie for fans of physical comedy and lighthearted silliness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how women are portrayed in this movie. If this 1971 movie was remade, what are some ways men and women would be presented differently?

  • In spite of his bumbling incompetence, why is Hollis Figg a likeable character, one who you root for to come out on top in the end?

  • Besides the role of women, what else about this movie feels dated?

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