The Toy (1982), starring Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, Ned Beatty
The Toy is a comedy starring Richard Pryor — Jackie Gleason isn’t as much a co-star as a secondary character, but very important — he’s the antagonist. He plays U.S. Bates, a veritable living caricature of the wealthy millionaire. Some people consider U.S. Bates to be racist because he treats Richard Pryor like his personal property, but that’s not correct. U.S. Bates treats everyone that way — his employees (Ned Beatty shines as a yes-man employee, who will do whatever his boss says — but hates himself for doing so), his butler (Wilfrid Hyde-White, who performs wonderfully as the butler that Bates won in a card game), his third wife (Teresa Ganzel as Fancy), etc. Absolutely everyone — except his young son, Eric, whom he truly loves — but has no relationship with.
The movie begins with Jack Brown (Richard Pryor) as an unemployed writer, on the verge of losing his house. He’s $10,000 behind on his mortgage. He tries to get a job at ‘The Bugle’ (owned by Bates), but they’re not hiring. Jack finally swallows his pride and works as the janitor at Bates’ department store. Young Eric Bates is home from his military school for 1 week, and goes to his father’s department store to pick out something for his birthday. He goes to the toy department, where Brown is cleaning; he picks Brown. Brown, of course, doesn’t want to go, but after enough money is placed in his hands, he agrees to ‘lease’ himself to the young man. Before he realizes what a spoiled brat that the boy is.
Along the way, Jack actually begins to bond with the spoiled young man, helping him to grow up. He also tries to help repair the relationship between father and son. Along the way, there are various slapstick escapades. These include unintentionally setting off U.S. Bates’ expansive domino set up multiple times, driving a car down the steps of the mansion, and breaking up a fundraiser for a senator at the mansion. The fundraiser is where U.S. Bates plans to have the senator accept a donation from a Klansman to put the senator under Bates’ thumb. The fundraiser ends with a wild cart ride and a pie fight.
In short, The Toy is a relatively funny movie, but definitely not a children’s movie. Oddly, that’s what it was supposed to be. There’s too much bad language for it to succeed in that genre.
Editorial review of The Toy courtesy of Amazon.com
For the first time in motion picture history, the outrageous talent of Richard Pryor and the ingenious comedic sense of Jackie Gleason are combined in the same film. Gleason is U.S. Bates, a megalomaniac millionaire who owns most of south central Louisiana. Pryor is Jack Brown, a former journalist who has worked his way down the vocational ladder to the position of janitor in Bates’ department store. Among Bates’ other vast holdings is a young son Eric (Scott Schwartz), who visits his father for one week a year. Typically, Eric is chauffeured to the department store after-hours to pick out anything he wants. This time, Eric has a more elaborate toy in mind — Jack Brown. So begins the unique relationship that teaches Eric more about life than fun and games.