The Toy (1982 film)

The Toy is a 1982 American comedy film directed by Richard Donner. The film stars Richard Pryor, Jackie Gleason, Ned Beatty, Scott Schwartz, Teresa Ganzel, and Virginia Capers. It is an adaptation of the 1976 French comedy film Le Jouet.

The Toy
The toy.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRichard Donner
Screenplay byCarol Sobieski
Based onLe Jouet
by Francis Veber
Produced byPhil Feldman
CinematographyLászló Kovács
Edited byRichard A. Harris
Michael A. Stevenson
Music byPatrick Williams
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • December 10, 1982 (1982-12-10)
Running time
102 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$17 million[1]
Box office$47,118,057 (United States and Canada)[2]


Jack Brown is a married, unemployed man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in danger of having his house repossessed. 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 the wealthy and ruthless businessman U.S. Bates, who owns the paper, a department store and many other businesses. Brown is humiliated as he clumsily attempts to serve food at a luncheon. He is fired from that gig by Bates, but "Master" Eric Bates, the spoiled son of the boss, sees Jack while looking through Bates' department store. Amused at seeing Jack goof around in the store's toy section, Eric informs his father's long-suffering right-hand man, Sydney Morehouse, 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 to stave off repossession, 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 trophy wife Fancy, who 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 Bates (with Morehouse as his proxy) offers Jack enough money to pay off the full mortgage.

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 fishing. The pair decide to start a newspaper of their own. After witnessing multiple examples of Bates' cruelty to his employees, they dig up dirt on him, such as a story of how he won his butler, Barkley, in a game of billiards. They publish their paper and distribute it throughout the city. When Morehouse finds a copy and presents it to his boss, Bates is outraged, but keeps his anger in check and calls Jack and Eric for a private meeting at his office.

To prove to his son that money can buy loyalty, he offers Jack a reporting job with his newspaper in exchange for shutting their newspaper down, which is what Jack wanted all along. When he accepts, Eric is upset because he thinks Jack is selling out. Jack tells Eric that most men need jobs, just as his priority is to support himself and his wife.

An outdoor party is later held at the Bates estate, attended by prominent citizens who are supporters of a senator. They are unaware that members of the KKK are also in attendance. Jack's wife, Angela, tries to bring attention to this with her anti-Klan group, but Jack convinces her to leave. He learns the true reason for the party is to get the KKK Grand Wizard and the senator together in a picture, which Bates would then use to blackmail the senator. Jack and Eric team up to disrupt the party, which is witnessed from afar by Angela and her group. Jack informs the senator of Bates' intentions and he leaves the party in outrage. Jack then proceeds to embarrass the Grand Wizard by causing him to fall into a bowl of chocolate fudge. The Grand Wizard throws a pie at Jack, but hits a policeman instead, leading to his arrest. Bates chases after Jack in a golf cart but ends up crashing into the pool. Jack saves him from drowning and Bates thanks him. Bates says Jack's "toy" job is over and he may go home.

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 to Jack's house. Jack refuses to let Eric live with him and gently admonishes the boy to give his father a chance. Bates arrives and confesses to his son how much he truly does love him and Eric finally accepts it and the two embrace. As he and Eric depart for the airport, Bates says his offer for the newspaper job stands and promises Eric that next year he will have two weeks of spring vacation: one with Jack and one with himself, much to Eric's joy.



The film was made by Rastar, the company of Ray Stark, then under head of production Guy McElwaine. McElwaine had been an agent – his clients included Pryor – before being enticed over to Rastar.[3]

In his autobiography Pryor Convictions, Pryor wrote that he and Gleason got along like "kindred souls". He stated the stories Gleason told between setups were funnier than the film itself. Moreover, in a 1982 Los Angeles Times interview Pryor said "I'd loved Jackie Gleason for years."[4] A national talent search was held to find the actor who played Gleason's son.[5]

Pryor cast Annazette Chase to portray Angela after they worked together in The Mack (1973).[6] The film was shot on locations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana during the summer of 1982.[7]

In May, during filming, Pryor was hospitalised with pneumonia. He was released after a week and resumed filming.[8] Donner blamed this on the air pollution in Baton Rouge which he said was the worst he had ever experienced. The director said he would "never" work in the city again.[9]

Veber said he thought the film "could be very funny... The fact that Richard Pryor as the journalist is black could make it even more amusing for the boy has the 'toy' giftwrapped. Pryor in a box could be very funny."[10]


The Toy was panned by critics. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 3% based on reviews from 30 critics, with the consensus reading: "A muddled and unfunny collision of two comedic titans, The Toy is unsuitable for children -- or anyone else seeking entertainment."[11] Metacritic gave the film a score of 16 based on 8 reviews, indicating an "overwhelming dislike".[12]

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."[13]

The film opened in the United States the same weekend as Airplane II: The Sequel and 48 Hrs. and finished at number one for the weekend with a gross of $6,322,804 from 1,381 screens.[2] The film grossed $47,118,057 in the United States and Canada.[2]


  1. ^ "THE TOY (1982)". AFI.
  2. ^ a b c The Toy at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ Pollock, Dale (May 8, 1981). "FILM CLIPS: PRYOR IN HIGH DEMAND AS BLACK FILM DECLINES". Los Angeles Times. p. g1.
  4. ^ Lee, Grant (Apr 1, 1982). "RICHARD PRYOR: AT 41, MAKING A YOU-TURN?: RICHARD PRYOR: SECOND LOOK AT LIFE". Los Angeles Times. p. j1.
  5. ^ Lee, Luaine (Jan 28, 1982). "The search is on for Great One, age 10". Chicago Tribune. p. c15.
  6. ^ "KEEPING TABS ON CELEBS". Jet. 27 December 1982. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  7. ^ "Funny men enhance show". TimesDaily. 30 April 1982. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
  8. ^ "PEOPLE: [FIRST Edition 2]". Boston Globe. May 9, 1982. p. 1.
  9. ^ Beck, Marilyn (June 26, 1982). "Entertainment: 'Toy' cast clears air about city's pollution". Chicago Tribune. p. b11.
  10. ^ "'A LITTLE FRENCHMAN' TRIES HIS LUCK IN AMERICA". Los Angeles Times. Jan 19, 1982. p. g4.
  11. ^ "The Toy (1982)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2022-03-22.
  12. ^ "The Toy Reviews". Metacritic.
  13. ^ Vincent Canby (1982-12-10). "'TOY' A COMEDY WITH PRYOR AND GLEASON". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-09.

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