- Movie Rating -

Bustin’ Loose (1981)

| May 22, 1981

Richard Pryor is such an open book, such a vast comic talent that I think filmmakers believe that no matter what they put him in, he can be funny.  They may be right but that can’t explain why he has yet to find a narrative film that fits his enormous talent away from the stand-up scene.

Thus far, Bustin’ Loose comes closest.  It’s a very loose comedy – no pun intended – that lets him simply be himself and in his unscripted manner he is able to generate some big laughs.  He’s best when his mouth gets ahead of his brain and he sees his plans going down the tubes.  He’s not a perpetual loser but he finds himself in that space far too often.

That’s kind of where he is at the start of Bustin’ Loose, as a con artist about to steal a truck full of valuable home appliances.  His accomplice gets nervous and drives off with the stolen goods, leaving him holding the bag, so to speak.  He gets arrested and is hauled before a judge who sentences him to community service, driving a busload of troubled kids from Philadelphia to Washington State.  The kids, of course, do what they can to drive him crazy every step of the way and he does what he can just to endure their torments.

The funniest scenes in the movie are right up front, those opening scenes where he is trying to con his way into stealing that truck.  Once the movie gets on the road with the kids, it gets a little softer, a little quieter, a little sweeter and ultimately has far less bite.  The kids are more or less predictable.  They’re all ‘types’: the blind kid, a pyromaniac, a nymphomaniac all with various problems, all with various dark histories and, of course, Pryor will get to know them and they will soften his soul – a long way from where the movie starts.

I wish that the movie had more bite, more stinging satire, more of what Pryor gives us on the stage.  I can imagine him telling us this story in his stand-up and it would have more charge than any sentimentality that this film could offer.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized