The Toy (1982)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Toy</strong> (1982)

(On TV, December 2018) There is a sharp racial edge to the premise of The Toy—the idea that a black man can be essentially bought by a rich white boy to act as his plaything. It completely fits within Richard Pryor’s comic persona, as well as the irreverent nature of early-1980s comedy. (I’m not sure the same movie could be made today.) Still, what matters in a movie is the execution, and that’s where The Toy loses a lot of its lustre—once given the basic elements, much of the script feels far too familiar to be interesting. Of course the boy needs a friend; of course, the protagonist won’t ultimately lose his integrity; of course, they’ll actually befriend each other.) Further compounding the problem is the often-juvenile nature of the screenplay—it’s fine to have a largely kid-driven film with an adult premise, but when the script’s most interesting elements are sidelined for kiddie goofiness, we’re left to wonder who’s the film real audience. I suspect that some of the film’s disappointment comes from adapting a French film to an American context (with a very different take on the issue of, well, slavery), and not necessarily knowing how to play those elements. At least we do get to have Pryor and Jackie Gleason go head-to-head in comic scenes. Still, The Toy feels like a disappointment, disjointed and not quite able to use everything at its disposal for a coherent result.

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