- Movie Rating -

The Toy (1982)

| December 21, 1982

I went into Richard Donner’s The Toy knowing nothing about it, except that is stars Richard Pryor and I am not exaggerating when I say that when I realized what the plot was going to be, I sat there in slack-jawed horror.  I couldn’t believe it.  I couldn’t believe that one of the most brilliant, accomplished stand-up comedians was now starring a movie I which he is purchase by a child.

I’m going to let that sink in.  Richard Pryor is a black man who is purchased as a toy for a spoiled rich white kid who proceeds to spend the next hour abusing him with fire crackers and practical jokes, like luring him into a lake filled with killer piranha!  What was the thinking here?  What was Donner thinking?  What was Pryor thinking?  What were his agents thinking?  This is one of those movies that social analysis point to when they want an example of what Hollywood thinks about black actors.  It’s humiliating.

What’s worse is that this is disguised as a genial comedy in which Pryor plays a janitor in a toy store who just happens to be working at the same moment that important mega-millionaire Jackie Gleason walks in with his son (Scott Schwartz) and tells him that he can have anything in the store that he wants – and he picks Pryor!  Pryor agrees after having his palm greased with fistfuls of money.

Gleason brings Pryor home and the next hour is spent with the kid pulling a variety of cruel pranks on his new possession.  Pryor tries to leave but is always thwarted by Gleason’s staff.  Ultimately, the kid softens and Pryor realizes that the kid is acting out because his old man never spends time with him.  Therefore, Pryor becomes a father figure and the movie slips into sentimentality and pathos.  Oy!

Pryor is a marvel in his stand-up.  His body language is almost a character that he invents and his comic style is so relaxed that you feel as if you’re in the room with him.  He’s naturally funny.  So, what is happening to his movie career?  Why do his agents insist on putting through garbage like this when all we want to see is Richard busting out and one-upping those who oppose him.  For his best work, look up the western comedy Adios Amigos or Bustin’ Loose or Stir CrazyThe Toy is just embarrassing.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1982) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy