"The Toy" is more fun than a tub-full of duckies. It's Richard Pryor's plaything, his chance to gather kids around.
He's a mellowed-out, male Mary Poppins who becomes the rent-a-friend of an overprivileged child. Pryor's swell, but how sweet it is when he meets heavy Jackie Gleason, a stinking, rich Louisiana fat cat. His son Eric (Scott Schwartz), like dad, is used to buying whatever he wants. The brat's home from military school for a one-week stay when he discovers Jack (Pryor), a journalist making ends meet as a janitor in dad's department store. Eric likes Jack's clowning and wants to take him home. "I'm not for sale," says Jack. "I thought we settled all that during the Civil War." But like everyone, he has his price.
Jack soon finds that underneath Peck's Bad Boy is a misunderstood kid with a heart as big as a Tonka truck. To bring the boy and his father together and realize his own dream of becoming an employed reporter, Pryor changes his pace. He's witty, warm and charming, no longer the king of raunch. Imagine Pryor with lines like: "You don't buy a friend. You earn a friend."
The plot, from a French film called "Le Jouet," is a little baggy -- the film seems ready to end three times. Just when we're ready to tear up for the ending, they hit us with another pie in the face.
There are also occasional scenes to show off stepmom Fancy Bates, a role acted by Teresa Ganzel's chest. Wilfred Hyde-White, as the ubiquitous, witty British butler, and Ned Beatty, as an apple polisher, complete the major cast.
"The Toy" would improve with a little tinkering. Still, it's surefire family fare.