I’ve always thought the best comedy ever conceived was Moving, starring Richard Pryor. Actually, that’s a bit of an exaggeration—“ever” goes back further than 1988. But, you know, without getting snagged up on the front end of eternity, I will add that Moving is also the most underrated comedy and could have been a cult classic on par with Dazed and Confused or Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space had the film come out on DVD sooner than 2006 as a sort of b-side throw-in with Greased Lightning. Twenty-one years after its theatrical release, it’s still excruciating, smart, subtle and funny. I think this way because of Dana Carvey’s schizoid character(s), and Randy Quaid's playing the ex-con Crawford brothers/neighbors, Edward and Perry and King Kong Bundy from Hummingbird Movers, and Morris Day . . . eh, I could go on. But mostly because of Pryor’s character Arlo Pear, whose life spirals out of control when he’s fired from his suburban job as a mass transit engineer in New Jersey and is forced to move to the more remote suburbs of Boise “fucking” Idaho.
Hilarity ensues. The best line is a throwaway, when the movers are idly driving around Boise with all of the earthly Pear’s belongings, and Pryor’s Arlo drives up beside them in his ruined Saab dressed like Rambo and tells them to pull over. “Hey, it’s that Arlo Pear man,” says the driver. “What? Ah man, forget about him,” says the other with complete disregard. This makes no sense on so many levels it will never get old.
The movie is made all the better because it’s so unheralded. The many people I’ve talked to who know it (at least half a dozen) either like it as much as me (which is compulsively), or at least like it very much (in which case I tell them to watch it again). Come on, there’s some real irony to the notoriously foul-mouthed Pryor having a “swear jar” for his family to pay into, a quarter for every slip. And you’d have no indication from watching movie the fiction-like qualities of Pryor’s real life.