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THE TOY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, Ned Beatty, Scott Schwartz
Director: Richard Donner
Audio: English Mono, French Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Standard 1.33:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Bonus Trailers
Length: 102 Minutes
Release Date: November 13, 2001

“This is Jack Brown. Jack, meet Master Bates.”

“A-HA-HA…Master…”

Film ***

I can still remember in my childhood days, when I first experienced the joy of premium cable channels, in particular HBO and Showtime (No, I’m not referring to the late night Friday programming). There were many movies that I remember watching frequently. Star Wars and The Outsiders are two that were aired repeatedly, and then there was a little comedy called The Toy, which was aired a lot, and I remember it making laugh more than any movie at the time. Of course, I hadn’t even reached the age of 5, and now that I am pretty much a grown man, do I still find the movie funny? Absolutely. Watching for the first time in years, I discovered many funny lines in the movie that I never caught before, such as the quote above. And let’s face it, it’s hard to watch any movie of Richard Pryor’s and not laugh. He’s very much one of the greatest comedic stars of all time, and even though The Toy is one of few family friendly movies that he has done, Pryor, known mostly for hard-edged, raunchy comedy, still displays some terrifically hysterical moments.

The premise of The Toy is not a remarkable and seems dated, but the movie is loaded with laughs as well as moments of sweetness. Pryor plays Jack Brown, an aspiring journalist who’s presently unemployed and desperately needs money in order to keep the bank from taking possession of his home. He soon gets a job at a department store, which is run by multi-billionaire U.S. Bates (Jackie Gleason), whose son, Eric (Scott Schwartz) is in town for his yearly visit. Bates is the kind of father who gets his son anything and everything he wants, as long as he stays out of the way. When Eric spots Jack goofing off in the department store late one night, he decides that he wants Jack more than any single toy in the store. Jack then finds himself in a strange but profitable situation. Bates will grant him a handsome pay if he agrees to be the boy’s toy for the week.

Most of the movie consists of Eric setting Jack up for some embarrassing incidents, which mainly involves the two of them upsetting Eric’s dad. Then the movie takes a somewhat sentimental turn as Jack becomes something of a real father figure for Eric, and also goes on to open the eyes of both Bates and Eric to show that what they’re engaging in is somewhat morally inhuman. Nonetheless, I always get a kick out of the finale where Jack and Eric, by way of a go-cart and dirt bike, crash a party Bates is throwing which is a secret benefit for the KKK.

The pairing of comedic legends Pryor and Gleason alone makes The Toy a unique comedy experience. Both are given their own space to do their individual form of comedic brilliance. The movie is as simple and sweet as anything, but it does include many laughs throughout, and is a perfect movie for the kid in all of us.

Video *1/2

Whenever I don’t spot the Special Edition label on any CTS release, I don’t exactly anticipate a phenomenal transfer, but this is simply not the usual quality we’re used to seeing from Columbia Tri Star. This anamorphic presentation does show promise in the early moments, but for the most part the disc suffers from frequent spots of grain and image compression. In addition, the picture also turns up darker than it needs to be in many different parts of the presentation.

Audio **

I rarely have the misfortune to experience discs in a mono transfer. One standout disc I can recall was that for Hitchcock’s Psycho, which contained a remarkable mono transfer. Here, the turnout on the sound was nothing different than a standard VHS version, from what I could tell. No rear pickup, and no side pickup either, as all of the sound seemed to be projected from the front area.

Features *

All that’s included are bonus trailers for what I assume are family friendly tie-ins, Matilda and Jumanji.

Summary:

The Toy is a quality comedy that somehow found its way onto a bad disc. However, it doesn’t prevent enjoyment of the movie at hand, which is hands down funny, and truly one of my favorites of Richard Pryor.