Bustin’ Loose is obviously a personal project for Pryor, who produced and wrote the story, which has admirable ambitions but is also the film’s greatest weakness.
Still, Pryor is an infectious comedian and a master of body language, keeping the picture on the move with sheer energy. He’s a bungling burglar but good mechanic whose parole officer (Robert Christian) forces him to go to the aid of Cicely Tyson, the director of a school for emotionally disturbed children about to close for lack of money.
She wants to flee Philly with eight of the kids and get to her family farm near Seattle. There’s a bit of the African Queen to this journey as the prissy, prim and dominant Tyson and vulgar, unkempt Pryor find their initial hostility turning to romance.
On the way, it’s the constant breakdowns of the bus, the impatience with the kids and other obstacles – including a hilarious encounter with the Ku Klux Klan – that feed Pryor his material and he makes the most of it.
This is a feature debut for Broadway director Oz Scott and he handles the chore comfortably.