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The Toy Blu-ray review



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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   MatthewA

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Posted January 24 2012 - 07:29 PM


An unemployed writer (Richard Pryor) finds himself working for a wealthy Louisiana tycoon’s (Jackie Gleason) ill-mannered son (Scott Schwartz), who buys him and plays with him as if he were a toy. Poorly scripted, directed and acted, woefully unfunny and morally cloudy, The Toy is a reprehensible waste of two comic legends. Good picture and sound on this Blu-ray disc from Image can’t make up for the film’s myriad of problems.


http://static.hometh...um.com/imgrepo/The Toy (1982)

Studio: Columbia Pictures (distributed by Image)

Year: 1982

Rated: PG

Length: 102 Minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Languages: English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

MSRP: $17.97

Film Release Date: December 10, 1982

Disc Release Date: January 24, 2012

Review Date: January 25, 2012


The Movie:


1/5


Richard Pryor’s stand-up comedy was fearless and uncompromising in his take on race relations, current events and deep personal travails; he was able to parlay his stand-up success into a film career. Jackie Gleason also had a respectable film career in addition to the TV icon status The Honeymooners earned him; Smokey and the Bandit had given it a huge shot in the arm. In 1982, the two comic titans got together in The Toy and didn’t make movie magic.


Jack Brown (Pryor) is an unemployed journalist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana whose girlfriend (Annazette Chase) runs an activist group dedicated to tracking the activities of the KKK. Desperate to get any job at the local paper in order to save his house from foreclosure, he takes a job working at a department store owned by the paper’s wealthy publisher, U.S. Bates (Gleason). While fumbling and bumbling in the toy department, Bates’ spoiled son Eric (Scott Schwartz), who is on a one-week vacation from military school, has been promised he can have anything he wants. When he sees Jack fumbling with an inflatable wheel, he asks for his father’s associates to buy him. Sydney Morehouse (Ned Beatty), his father’s personal assistant, tries to explain that you cannot buy and sell human beings, but Eric insists. On the condition that he gets paid for doing so, Jack agrees to live in the mansion for a week and be Eric’s friend. When Jack gets tired of Eric treating him like a toy and threatens to quit, the elder Bates offers him enough money to pay his debts. Jack takes the money and stays, determined to turn Eric around. Eventually, they form a bond and even start their own newspaper, digging up dirt on Bates and spreading it around town. Needless to say, this does nothing to heal the fractured relationship between Eric and his father.


The film was adapted from the 1976 French film Le Jouet, written and directed by Francis Veber, who is no stranger to American adaptations of his work; La Cage aux Folles became The Birdcage, The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe became The Man with One Red Shoe, and, more recently, The Dinner Game became Dinner for Schmucks. Unfortunately, not all those Americanized versions worked, and this is not one of them.


Like the dominoes U.S. Bates keeps in his den, Carol Sobieski’s witless, contrived, manipulative and morally confused script is the domino that knocks all the others down. It’s an ill-conceived mish-mash of second-rate slapstick, maudlin sentimentality, hypocritical stereotyping, undernourished characterization and an attitude towards class relations that was cliché in 1932, never mind 1982. It can’t decide whether it’s about racism, classism, integrity, or human decency. Richard Donner does nothing to guide it in the right direction, cluelessly playing up all these elements in the hopes that something will stick, but his efforts all in vain. It fails miserably as comedy, drama, satire, and morality play, but even if he had picked one approach and stuck with it throughout the film, none of them would have been effective. He is also unclear on the intended audience for this PG-rated film; it seems to be aimed at families but it sprinkles sex jokes throughout, including one involving a fully nude painting of Eric’s stepmother. It’s too smutty for kids and too juvenile for adults.


With such rotten material to work with, the cast makes little to no effort to make their characters remotely believable or something other than despicable. Pryor spends half the film knocking things over, getting things thrown at him, and having food dumped on him, and the other half trying to teach Eric that money doesn’t buy happiness while getting paid to be his friend. Gleason is unconvincing as a wealthy tycoon, Ned Beatty embarrasses himself as Bates’ drunken assistant, Wilfrid Hyde-White is horribly underused as the butler, and as Eric’s stepmother, Teresa Ganzel has the worst Southern accent in the history of film. Other characters come and go without any reason or rhyme, such as Karen Leslie-Lyttle’s ridiculous German nanny who watches Nazi propaganda on tape while trying to seduce Jack. What purpose does this character serve? How does her presence move the story forward or illuminate any of the characters’ motivations? Why does she seem like a rip-off of Inga Swenson’s character from Benson? Nobody knows and, quite frankly, nobody cares. Scott Schwartz is the only one who at least tries to make lemonade out of the lemon handed to him. He tries his best to make Eric’s transformation into a decent human being believable, but swimming against the tide of a horrible script that its director cannot salvage, he simply comes off as obnoxious throughout the film.


In the original movie, the title character was a white Frenchman. Casting Richard Pryor added a racial element that caused critics to accuse the film of racism for the fact that the film revolves around a rich white boy who “buys” a black man. Yet it’s unlikely that Pryor would have done the film had he found it offensive; he almost quit Stir Crazy because of a cameraman who used a watermelon slice as a Frisbee and ceased using racial slurs in his act after a trip to Africa. Maybe instead of accusing the film of racism, critics of the time should have pointed out its cognitive dissonance. It hypocritically tries to condemn racism while making fun of Germans, women, rich people and especially Southerners.


The critics’ disdain for the film couldn’t keep it from grossing a respectable $47,118,057 at the box office, coming in 14th place for the year. I guess children liked the copious number of toys seen in the film. They could easily have stayed home and played with their own toys.


The Video:

3.5/5


The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The razor-sharp AVC-encoded transfer features a mild grain structure that increases slightly in dark scenes and a handful of dupe shots, but the film is reasonably bright throughout. Its colors, while strongly saturated, run to the cool side.


The Audio:

3/5


Released in mono originally, the track is presented as a 2.0 PCM mono track. It’s a serviceable effort with slightly distorted dialogue, but Patrick Williams’ syrupy synthesized score has a good balance of frequencies and exceptionally strong bass.


The Extras:

0/5


There are no extras whatsoever.


Final Score:

1/5


Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason cannot save this half-baked concept or its criminally poor execution. Not funny, emotionally resonant, thematically cohesive or morally consistent, The Toy was broken out of the box. Image’s Blu-ray does a good job presenting the picture and sound, but one wishes they had expended the effort on Pryor’s concert films of the same era instead.


Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#2 of 12 OFFLINE   WinstonCely

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Posted January 25 2012 - 02:34 AM

I remember loving this film when I was a kid, but haven't tried to watch it since. Your review has convinced me not to bother. It makes me wonder though, with so many good films out there to release to BD, why are ones like this getting released instead? Even if the film were not as bad as your review, it's still one of those films I would say would be fine to have on DVD, but no reason to have it in HD.

#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 25 2012 - 04:43 AM



Originally Posted by DellaStMedia 

I remember loving this film when I was a kid, but haven't tried to watch it since. Your review has convinced me not to bother.

 

I remember loving this as a kid too, and I also haven't watched it since then.  I'm a bit more stubborn though, so I will be giving it a shot on Blu-ray, especially since its around $10.  Worst case its like when I watched a Six Million Dollar Man on SciFi with fond memories of loving it as a kid and soon realized that I wasn't very smart and had no taste when I was one.





#4 of 12 OFFLINE   oldtvrocks

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Posted January 25 2012 - 09:23 AM

I remember loving this as a kid too, and I also haven't watched it since then.  I'm a bit more stubborn though, so I will be giving it a shot on Blu-ray, especially since its around $10.  Worst case its like when I watched a Six Million Dollar Man on SciFi with fond memories of loving it as a kid and soon realized that I wasn't very smart and had no taste when I was one.  

You are nuts, MOST modern shows are garbage except for about 60 of the 1000's of tv shows done since 1982 - old tv shows are the only good quality programs we have

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   TonyD

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Posted January 25 2012 - 11:05 AM

You are nuts, MOST modern shows are garbage except for about 60 of the 1000's of tv shows done since 1982 - old tv shows are the only good quality programs we have

That's an interesting way to ntrosuce yourself into the forum.
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#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 25 2012 - 05:35 PM



Originally Posted by oldtvrocks 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gregorich 

I remember loving this as a kid too, and I also haven't watched it since then.  I'm a bit more stubborn though, so I will be giving it a shot on Blu-ray, especially since its around $10.  Worst case its like when I watched a Six Million Dollar Man on SciFi with fond memories of loving it as a kid and soon realized that I wasn't very smart and had no taste when I was one.


 


You are nuts, MOST modern shows are garbage except for about 60 of the 1000's of tv shows done since 1982 - old tv shows are the only good quality programs we have

While my wife might agree that I am nuts, I think you are painting with a broad brush.  I didn't say that old shows were bad, on the contrary, I'm watching Dukes of Hazzard and Wonder Woman with my kids now.  Dick Van Dyke, Love Boat, Leave it to Beaver, Buck Rogers, etc.  I love old TV, I just didn't find 6MDM to have held up as well as other shows in my opinion.




#7 of 12 OFFLINE   mattCR

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Posted January 26 2012 - 09:10 AM

I will admit, I believe - with a few exceptions - right now is a period of TV where we have unbelievable quality that manages to hit many tastes.   I sometimes look back at shows I loved as a kid in the 70s/80s and think "we watched that?"   The production values, sets, and acting frankly have improved.


That's not to say great shows aren't great as far as you go - MASH, Happy Days, Cosby Show, Hill Street Blues, etc. to me are still great great shows.   But then again, I also have to admit there was a lot of total crap on the air then too.


In regards to The Toy, that's one of the problems.  It's a film that doesn't age well.    While Pryor certainly may not have thought it would come across as outright racist, it pretty well does.   It was a film that as a kid I thought was cute, then when I re-watched in college along with Brewster's Millions (a film I do actually enjoy still, especially the camp nature of it) I just found it.. well, frankly bad.   The acting isn't very good, the storyline is fairly offensive, and it just doesn't go anywhere.


That's not to say it's the worst thing I've seen.. it's not as though it's Bruce Willis in "North", but it's not one I'm rushing out to go see either.   Gleason walks through this film as though he both doesn't want to be there and hates the material, and that also sucks.  This was the period of Gleason's career where he just cashed the checks.   Smokey & The Bandit 3.   The Sting II, etc. 

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#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 26 2012 - 10:11 AM



Originally Posted by mattCR 
I will admit, I believe - with a few exceptions - right now is a period of TV where we have unbelievable quality that manages to hit many tastes. I sometimes look back at shows I loved as a kid in the 70s/80s and think "we watched that?" The production values, sets, and acting frankly have improved.


In regards to The Toy, that's one of the problems.  It's a film that doesn't age well.    While Pryor certainly may not have thought it would come across as outright racist, it pretty well does.   It was a film that as a kid I thought was cute, then when I re-watched in college along with Brewster's Millions (a film I do actually enjoy still, especially the camp nature of it) I just found it.. well, frankly bad.   The acting isn't very good, the storyline is fairly offensive, and it just doesn't go anywhere.



I was in no way attempting to knock todays shows, there is some great stuff out there.  As to The Toy, I'm holding onto my fond memories of it as a child which will most likely be dashed this weekend when I watch the BD that has arrived from Amazon.  My favorite comedy from the ear which IMHO does still stand the test of time is Stripes which also just got a BD release and arrived from Amazon in the same box as The Toy.




#9 of 12 OFFLINE   Radioman970

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Posted January 26 2012 - 10:53 AM

I still like this film. Pryor saves it. He and the kid are pretty good together, and even heartwarming at times. this has all the earmarks of a goofy 80s comedy. There were certainly ones that were crazier (remember TerrorVision?) But I understand how a majority can dislike this. Still, anyone who remembers it fondly should at least give it a rent before declaring it too old to revisit. Afterall, many of the comedy moments till work, Pryor getting the oatmeal on the head, the robot punch in the nuts, his breakfast spilled on the floor,... I have the DVD but will consider upgrading when this is seriously dirt cheap. It's a regular watch for me. Oh...why do people think the film is racist? I've always felt it was about racist characters... ???
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#10 of 12 OFFLINE   MatthewA

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Posted January 26 2012 - 11:55 AM




Quote:
Quote:Originally Posted by mattCR 

I will admit, I believe - with a few exceptions - right now is a period of TV where we have unbelievable quality that manages to hit many tastes.   I sometimes look back at shows I loved as a kid in the 70s/80s and think "we watched that?"   The production values, sets, and acting frankly have improved.


That's not to say great shows aren't great as far as you go - MASH, Happy Days, Cosby Show, Hill Street Blues, etc. to me are still great great shows.   But then again, I also have to admit there was a lot of total crap on the air then too.



There are a number of great dramas and comedies on now, but they stand out compared to the sheer volume of garbage surrounding it; the worst of the 1970s and 1980s wasn't nearly as bad as the worst of the reality TV machine. But a lot of the shows that were considered groundbreaking then are seldom talked about today outside HTF and other like-minded forums, and I wonder how shows like The Sopranos and Mad Men will be viewed in 25 years. Charles Dickens was a popular novelist dismissed as a hack when he was alive, but he is lionized and studied today.


Quote:

In regards to The Toy, that's one of the problems.  It's a film that doesn't age well.    While Pryor certainly may not have thought it would come across as outright racist, it pretty well does.   It was a film that as a kid I thought was cute, then when I re-watched in college along with Brewster's Millions (a film I do actually enjoy still, especially the camp nature of it) I just found it.. well, frankly bad.   The acting isn't very good, the storyline is fairly offensive, and it just doesn't go anywhere.


That's not to say it's the worst thing I've seen.. it's not as though it's Bruce Willis in "North", but it's not one I'm rushing out to go see either.   Gleason walks through this film as though he both doesn't want to be there and hates the material, and that also sucks.  This was the period of Gleason's career where he just cashed the checks.   Smokey & The Bandit 3.   The Sting II, etc. 


I had only seen The Toy as a teen in the 1990s when I rented it on tape. I didn't like it very much, but it didn't stick out in my mind as being as exceptionally bad as I found it now. I was willing to give it a second chance, and I have seen much worse movies; since you mentioned Smokey and the Bandit Part III, I would say that was worse. When you've got a sequel so bad the star of the original would rather do Stroker Ace, which was pretty bad, you've got problems.


Has anyone seen the original French film?

Originally Posted by Radioman970 

I still like this film. Pryor saves it. He and the kid are pretty good together, and even heartwarming at times. this has all the earmarks of a goofy 80s comedy. There were certainly ones that were crazier (remember TerrorVision?) But I understand how a majority can dislike this. Still, anyone who remembers it fondly should at least give it a rent before declaring it too old to revisit. Afterall, many of the comedy moments till work, Pryor getting the oatmeal on the head, the robot punch in the nuts, his breakfast spilled on the floor,...
I have the DVD but will consider upgrading when this is seriously dirt cheap. It's a regular watch for me. Oh...why do people think the film is racist? I've always felt it was about racist characters... ???


I don't think it was trying to be racist on purpose, but it's obvious these accusations came from the very concept of the film itself: the idea of Jack being "owned" by Eric. If anything, they wanted to use that to condemn the film's white characters (somehow I doubt that Louisiana in 1982 was as bad as it was in 1962) and make Eric look like a jerk for doing that. Would they still have said that if it had been a better film? I don't know. But I consider that a very serious charge not to be used lightly. I also believe that condemning the use of words and images, regardless of context, is treating the symptom, not the disease. We don't teach people not to prejudge others by saying "don't use racial slurs." We do it by saying "judge every individual on their own merits no matter what." Intent matters in every situation. That's my only defense of any aspect of this film. That and the fact that I felt a small twinge of nostalgia for the toys I saw in the film.


Has Richard Donner made any public comment about his opinion on the film? I doubt he was even asked to do a commentary.


Enough is enough, Disney. No more evasions or excuses. We DEMAND the release Song of the South on Blu-ray along with the uncut version of Bedknobs and Broomsticks on Blu-ray. I will not support anything your company produces until then.


#11 of 12 OFFLINE   Bryan^H

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Posted January 26 2012 - 01:24 PM

While my wife might agree that I am nuts, I think you are painting with a broad brush.  I didn't say that old shows were bad, on the contrary, I'm watching Dukes of Hazzard and Wonder Woman with my kids now.  Dick Van Dyke, Love Boat, Leave it to Beaver, Buck Rogers, etc.  I love old TV, I just didn't find 6MDM to have held up as well as other shows in my opinion.  

Not to get too far off course here(I'll buy 'The Toy' sooner or later) but I own the Time/Life complete series of 6MDM. Having vague memories of watching it as a kid(and it being the coolest show on the planet at that time) I couldn't wait to see it again. I can tell you without hesitation that for every good episode, there are two embarressingly bad ones. It's not to say I'm not enjoying it, as some eps are so campy/bad that I can't help but smile and just take it for what it is. It's counterpart 'The Bionic Woman' is far superior thanks to Kenneth Johnson. I'm loving that series on dvd.

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#12 of 12 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted January 27 2012 - 01:58 AM

Glad to see I'm not the only one who has/had fond memories of The Toy.  It was run incessently on HBO when I was much younger and I always enjoyed it, particularly the ending.  I'm burying it in my Netflix queue right now.  If I get to it before 2014, it'll be a minor miracle.






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