In his days as a stand-up comic, Richard Pryor populated the stage with some of the most memorable characters ever given life by a performer. They were charming, outrageous, dangerous and always hilarious.
Since Pryor has moved his act to the screen, he's never been quite as energetic as his stand-up days. Except when teemed with Gene Wilder in 'Stir Crazy,' no one seemed quite the match for Pryor's off-beat brand of comedy.
But he seems to have chosen a way to take things a little slower while still giving air to a fertile imagination full of incredible, funny characters.
In 'Moving,' Pryor's latest film effort, directed by Alan Meeter and written by Andy Breckman, Pryor seems to be more comfortable than he's ever been playing alongside the wacky characters he used to act out all alone. And for the first time in a long time, the talent on screen with him seem up to the formidable task of creating comedy with one of America's truly creative and funny comedians.
'Moving' is full of a thousand little jokes, just as its shy and slightly-wimpy hero, Arlo, points out. Pryor's Arlo, a traffic engineer who lives a comfortable and staid existence in New Jersey, finds himself one day out of a job and shortly thereafter, offered the position of a lifetime in Boise, Idaho.
The process of moving from the familiar and comfortable to the new and unknown forms the basis of the plot, but the action is everywhere in between. About the only thing normal in Arlo's world in this movie is his beautiful wife, teenager daughter and mischievous twin sons.
But Arlo's world isn't meant to be funny: Pryor seems to revel in the chance to give Arlo more than any one human can bear from a moving truck-full of formidable, wacky and threatening characters. For once, all these characters in Pryor's path seem typically Pryor.
The 'neighbor from hell,' played wonderfully by Randy Quaid, to the family dog who no one is ever sure is still alive (some of Pryor's best early routines portrayed dogs, yes, dogs), to the multiple personality who Arlo hires to drive his precious car to Idaho, played by Dana Garvey -- they are a cast of the most overblown and ridiculous personalities put together on one screen. They are Pryor's early routines come to life.
It takes a lot of energy to keep up with all the silliness 'Moving' has to dish out. And it's not slick, relevant or slightly believable. Often, the road is uncomfortably bumpy: a nearly two-hourlong joke about insensitive movers and real estate sharpies can't always sustain the laughs. But for this moving experience, it pays handsomely to hang on tight and enjoy the ride. There's always some surprises when Richard Pryor takes the stage. This movie is rated R. Film contains foul language.