Richard Pryor is one of the funniest human beings to ever walk the planet. But when you watch his movies, it can be kind of hard to get an idea of what he was like as a comedian. In fact, with the exception of his concert films, none of the movies Pryor has ever done has ever managed to capture his comedic genius.
In Bustin' Loose Pryor stars as Joe, a two-bit hustler who is blackmailed by his conniving parole officer into driving a school bus full of troubled kids from Philadelphia to Seattle. It seems these wayward children – which include a pyromaniac, a teen prostitute, and a pathological liar – are all without a home, when the state cuts the funding for their group home. That's when their loving teacher (Cicely Tyson) steps in, as she decides the best thing to do is take the kids to her family's farm near Seattle, where they can live a normal life of chasing chickens. Enter our hero, who starts out as a selfish bastard, only concerned with staying out of jail, but who winds up loving the kids and coming to their rescue.
Bustin' Loose is just another strange chapter in the career of Richard Pryor. The film marked a departure for the comedian, as he tried to change his on-screen persona to a more family-friendly image. There's still a bit of the foul-mouthed, self proclaimed "crazy n***er" persona present, but for the most part, this is not the Richard Pryor who only a few years earlier had been deemed too dangerous for primetime television.
Bustin' Loose is an uneven comedy, that at times seems almost like two movies in one – and in some ways it is. Most of the film was originally shot before Pryor's infamous brush with death, when he set himself on fire while freebasing cocaine. The film sat around gathering dust, until Stir Crazy came out, made a ton of cash, and prompted the producers to reshoot sequences and release the film. The end result is a film that was produced before and after Pryor's accident (you can see a physical difference during certain parts of the movie), that never really comes together completely.
Still, there are some hilarious moments in Bustin' Loose, especially when the school bus breaks down, and Pryor manages to elicit the aid of the Ku Klux Klan. There's also some endearing moments with the motley crew of kids, but on the whole the film seems forced, and there's no chemistry between Pryor and Tyson.
Diehard fans of Richard Pryor may want to add this to their collection, but everyone else is better off just renting this bad boy. Everyone, however, would be better served by his concert films or his ill-fated television series.
An interesting bit of trivia: Bustin' Loose was spun off into a thankfully short television series.
Bustin' Loose is presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. The picture transfer is clean and clear, and if it wasn't remastered, then it comes from a quality source.
Bustin' Loose is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.
There are no bonus features.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]