The Toy (1982 film)
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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Richard Donner|
|Produced by||Phil Feldman
|Written by||Carol Sobieski
|Music by||Patrick Williams|
|Edited by||Richard A. Harris
Michael A. Stevenson
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Box office||$47,118,057 (USA)|
The Toy is a 1982 American comedy film directed by Richard Donner, and starring Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason, with Ned Beatty, Scott Schwartz, Teresa Ganzel, and Virginia Capers in supporting roles. It is an adaptation of the 1976 French film Le Jouet.
Jack Brown (Pryor) is an unemployed newspaper reporter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in danger of losing his house to the bank. After numerous unsuccessful attempts to get a job working for the local paper, the Bugle, he becomes so desperate that he ends up taking a job as a janitor for wealthy U.S. Bates (Gleason), who owns the paper and a department store among many other businesses. Brown is humiliated as he clumsily attempts to serve food at a luncheon that he was coerced to do by the spoiled-brat son of his boss, U.S. Bates. He is fired from that gig, but manages to land a part-time job as a playmate for the spoiled brat kid Bates and thus is employed by Bates anyway.
"Master" Eric Bates (Schwartz), the spoiled-brat son of the boss, has been told that he can have anything in the store. Amused at seeing Jack goof around in the store's toy section, Eric informs his father's right-hand man Sydney Morehouse (Beatty) that what he wants is Jack himself.
Morehouse fails to convince Eric that human beings cannot be owned. In exchange for a generous financial settlement, Jack agrees to be Eric's live-in friend during Eric's one-week spring break from military school.
Emotionally estranged from his father, Eric takes a liking to Jack but still manages to humiliate him with numerous pranks. After a particularly humiliating incident in the mansion incited by Bates' ditzy wife Fancy (Ganzel), who literally introduces him at a dinner party as Eric's new "toy," Jack grows tired of the situation and leaves. He agrees to return only when U.S. Bates (with Morehouse as his proxy) offers Jack so much money that he can not only pay back the bank, but pay off the mortgage on his house as well.
Jack returns, determined to teach Eric how a friend is supposed to be treated. They bond while participating in mini-cart racing, video games, and even fishing in a stream filled with piranha. The pair decide to start a newspaper of their own for fun. After witnessing multiple examples of Bates' cruelty, they dig up dirt on him, such as a story of how he won his butler, Barkley (Wilfrid Hyde-White), in a game of billiards. They publish their paper and distribute it throughout the city. Bates is outraged.
To prove to his son that money can buy loyalty, he offers Jack a reporting job with his newspaper, which is what Jack wanted all along. When he accepts, Eric is upset because he thinks Jack is selling out. Jack tells the boy that most men (especially disenfranchised African-American men such as himself) need jobs, just as his priority is to support himself and his wife.
A swanky outdoor party is later held at the Bates estate. It is attended by wealthy businessmen and politicians, some of whom are unaware it is to be a fundraising event for the Ku Klux Klan. Jack cannot abide that, so he and Eric—teaming up one last time— disrupt the party and expose the real purpose behind it, an attempt to blackmail the senator who is among those bringing a federal indictment against Bates. Bates chases after Jack in a golf cart but ends up crashing into his own pool. Jack saves him from drowning, and it seems all is forgiven. Jack packs up and returns to his neighborhood with his wife.
The next day, while driving Eric to the airport to return to military school, Bates tries desperately to have a heart-to-heart talk. Eric runs off, making his way to Jack's house. Jack gently admonishes Eric to give his father a chance. Bates offers the newspaper job to Jack again and promises Eric that next year he can spend one week with him and one with Jack, much to Eric's joy.
- Richard Pryor as Jack Brown
- Jackie Gleason as U.S. Bates
- Scott Schwartz as "Master" Eric Bates
- Ned Beatty as Sydney Morehouse
- Teresa Ganzel as Fancy
- Wilfrid Hyde-White as Barkley
- Virginia Capers as Ruby Simpson
Vincent Canby gave the film a bad review, stating "My mind wasn't simply wandering during the film - it was ricocheting between the screen and the exit sign." Ten of the eleven reviewers of the film listed on RottenTomatoes.com gave the film a negative rating ("rotten"), while only one reviewer gave the film a positive ("fresh") review. Both of the "top reviewers", one of whom was Vincent Canby, gave the film a negative review. As of 2015 the film has an 11% critic score and 53% of audience score (with over 16,000 reviewer votes).
The film earned roughly $47 million at the box office, making it the 14th-highest grossing movie of 1982. Since that time, it has grossed more than $24 million in rentals.