20 May 1999 | Rid.X
Pryor is the main reason to this film.
I've seen this movie more times than I'd ever admit to, and the thing that keeps me watching is Pryor. He shines in just about every scene he's seen, especially when he's paired with the Wonder-Wheel. It's just that the rest of the film isn't on the level.
That's not to say it's a bad film; it's just not a solid one. This remake of a Francis Veber film (the name escapes me) finds Pryor as Jack Brown, an unemployed writer who seeks a job with a newspaper. He arrives at Bates Industries, run by the powerful industrialist U.S. Bates (Jackie Gleason). He works a variety of odd jobs, incl. a janitor in a department store, where he is spotted by U.S. Bates' spoiled son, Eric, during the afforementioned Wonder-Wheel fiasco. Eric wants Jack as a toy, and this leads to a movie that blends the comedic with the sentimental, and works about half of the time.
The movie does take it's time to illustrate the goings-on in the Bates home. Eric spends much time tormenting Jack; during their first night, he shoots firecrackers at him, among other things. The two of them play air-hockey, and when Jack is beating Eric, the boy quits. Jack questions the boy if his father knows that his son is a quitter, to which Eric replies, "He doesn't care what I am, as long as I stay out of his way." That scene illustrates Eric's m.o.; he's frustrated at the neglect and inattentiveness he receives from his father, and expresses it in rebellious behavior.
That's all good and well, and that scenario does have a positive resolution, but the movie is burdened with unnecessary elements that don't belong in a movie like this. The movie has a racist subtext: Jack essentially allows himself to be bought, even though he says he can't. There's also a subplot towards the end dealing with the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan that serves no purpose other than to wreck a party. And U.S. Bates' wife, Fancy, is a poorly-drawn character; she comes along with an impressive bust and an annoying voice, and does little that is humorous, aside from her pronounciation of "U.S."
Still, the main reason to see the film is Pryor. See it for no other reason than to see a legend doing what he does best.