Shortly before Gene Wilder turned a French film into The Woman In Red, we got The Toy, a remake of Francis Veber's Le Jouet starring Richard Pryor in the role originally played by Pierre Richard. It did well at the box-office despite critics not exactly praising it.
One of the many Francis Veber comedies to be adapted into Hollywood films, The Toy should have been a breeze with its simple concept leaving little room for messing up and the reliable Pryor doing his thing. For the most part, this remake is pretty faithful to the original film as a rich, spoiled kid (played by Scott Schwartz) basically buys a grown man as a toy just to annoy his distant father only to find that a friendship develops between he and his purchase. The key scenes from the French film are recreated here from Pierre Richard's slapstick shenanigans to the kid's creation of a newspaper exposing his father's cold approach to everyone. As hard as he tries to make the film fun, Richard Pryor feels a tad miscast in this movie and having a young white boy purchase an African American adult adds a controversial subtext that really wasn't necessary and distracts from the plot.
Director Richard Donner tries hard to make this adaptation work and, for the most part, it does with the friendship between the kid and Pryor's character developing in a genuine way. Unfortunately, it falls short of the original film in every way: Pierre Richard's slapstick is snappier, Michel Bouquet's father is far more intimidating than Jackie Gleason (also miscast), the subplot makes more sense, the ending is more heartfelt and the cinematography in the original is slicker somehow. This remake moves at a surprisingly sluggish pace and it just doesn't feel as focused as it should be. Pryor does get some funny lines here and there and he manages to bring some fun to the proceedings but when a film's pacing is this off it makes both the humour and the drama hit-and-miss.
While not a bad film or comedy, The Toy simply lacks the charm and simplicity of the original so, unless you're a die-hard Richard Pryor fan and you're curious to see what he does with such an unusual role, you might want to skip it and watch the superior original instead.