Needs Strings to Hold it Up
Former journalist Jack Brown (Richard Pryor) is down on his luck and has been forced to find work as a janitor to pay his bills. It is at the department store of U.S. Bates (Jackie Gleason) where he now works that Jack is seen fooling around by Bates' spoilt son Eric (Scott Schwartz) who decides that he wants him as his play thing while he is staying with his father. Horrified at the thought Jack realises that maybe he can do it for a short while especially seeing that Bates is paying lots of money for him to demean himself. Things don't get off to a good start as Jack can't stand the annoying Eric but soon realises that most of his problems come from not getting any real parenting. Feeling sorry for him Jack decides to try and make a difference in his life.
So let's discuss the elephant in the room; no I am not on about a storyline which basically sees a wealthy white man buying his son an African American as a play thing as you can't change what happened in the past or what passed as humour. Nope I am on about a ridiculous scene of Richard Pryor with his trademark moustache in a French maid's outfit, once the bemusement of seeing Pryor in a skirt the scene becomes dull with Pryor basically delivering some typical accident prone style comedy. And that is the problem because in "The Toy" Pryor's repertoire of visual jokes quickly runs dry and it becomes repetitive. Not only that at times it resorts to speeding up the footage to try and be amusing.
Now maybe this was funnier back in the 80s especially when you have comedy heavyweights Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason together but now it seems like it was an under developed idea which relied more on Pryor's comic talents to make jokes work than the actual writing and unfortunately Pryor can only make a gag work so many times before it starts to bore. And as for Gleason he is criminally under used and plays second fiddle to Pryor.
Even the development in the story which sees Jack getting to sympathise with young Eric after being tormented by him ends up surprisingly dull. It almost feels like a cliche, the antagonistic relationship between a man and boy till the man gets to understand why the kid is such a pain in the butt and tries to give the kid what he really needs. And if that wasn't enough we even have U.S. Bates having his own play thing, a blonde with obvious assets played by Teresa Ganzel and would you believe it named Fancy.
What this all boils down to is that "The Toy" probably did work back in 1982 when it came out and Richard Pryor's facial expressions and quick talking would have been enough to entertain. But now it seems short on jokes and relies more than ever on Pryor making the unfunny work including him walking around in Spiderman pyjamas.