Richard Pryor stars in this wild, wacky and warmhearted road movie with a difference, which later inspired a TV series. When budget cuts close a children's home in Philadelphia, Vivian Perry (Emmy Award winner Cicely Tyson ) decides to help eight special-education students by taking them to her aunt's farm outside Seattle. In desperate need of a driver/mechanic for the bus, she teams up with Joe Braxton (Pryor), an equally desperate ex-con who hates women and children. Fueled by Roberta Flack's songs, the action is fast and funny as this delightfully mismatched group battles the bus, the law, the Ku Klux Klan and even each other on their way west. But it all ends happily for the kids, the con and the straitlaced lady.
Of all the films in which Richard Pryor was the main star in the 1970s and 1980s, this was one of the only ones to come close to capturing his impishly mercurial stage presence as a standup comedian--and also to aspire to coherency, perhaps because it was cowritten by Pryor and award-winning playwright Lonne Elder III. Pryor plays an ex-convict who gets strong-armed into helping a schoolteacher (Cicely Tyson) drive a busload of physically and emotionally handicapped children across the country. Though there is the kind of irascible adult-cute kid interplay you would expect, Pryor makes it work, even as he finds the heart in a ne'er-do-well who discovers a talent for caring for others. Watch for the scene in which Pryor finds himself face to face with a hooded group of Klansmen and comically finesses the situation. --Marshall Fine
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