Hollywood can’t adapt a three-prong plug. When Hollywood adapted the hit French comedy Le Jouet it figured the title and the premise, a man becomes a rich kid’s real-life toy, would be enough to make it a successful movie. The Toy starred Richard Pryor in the title role and Jackie Gleason as the millionaire father who hires him. The Toy failed miserably while Le Jouet is still a great comedy some thirty years later.
French comic actor Pierre Richard stars in Le Jouet as Francois Perrin, a left-leaning unemployed journalist who just got a probationary job with a prestigious magazine. While on assignment in a toy store a rich kid, Eric, spots him and wants him to be his toy. Perrin does not have much of a choice; his boss, Mr. Rambal-Cochet is France’s biggest industrialist and being blacklisted by him means he will never ever get another job.
At first Perrin (Pierre Richard) plays along and then discovers the kid basically wants somebody to really care about him.
There are many levels of comedy and meaning in Le Jouet, something the Pryor / Geason version failed to see.
One social aspect of the French comedy Le Jouet is Perrin gets Eric interested in journalism and helps him start a newspaper. Eric’s toy newspaper is a parallel to his father’s newsmagazine though the kid’s inquiry into his father’s affairs makes the budding journalist a threat.
Of course, Richard, a great French slapstick comedian, gets to do a few bits of hilarious physical comedy here.
Pierre Richard starred in another great French comedy that was remade miserably by Hollywood, Le grand blond avec une chaussure noire aka The Man With One Red Shoe starring Tom Hanks and Dabney Coleman.
Richard also has a small part in my favorite all-time French comedy DVD, Alexandre le Bienheureux
If you are really looking for Le Jouet DVD go to Amazon Canada and search for it and Francis Weber under Books. The publisher is listed as Koch and I am pretty sure Amazon goofed and it is the DVD. Amazon France has no such book but lists Weber with Le Jouet.