MOVIE REVIEW : All Packed Up, ‘Moving’ Goes Nowhere, Despite Richard Pryor

Times Staff Writer

“Moving” (citywide) zeroes in on that All-American trauma, the uprooting of a family in the name of parental career opportunities. Surely, the ordeal of selling a home, packing up and taking off for a new community is rich with comic possibilities.

Yet fledgling screenwriter Andy Breckman, who has written for both David Letterman and “Saturday Night Live,” offers consistently uninspired dialogue. Since the humor in “Moving” never rises above the level of a stale sitcom, the film defeats proven comedy director Alan Metter and even its star, Richard Pryor, stuck in the squarest, most strait-jacketed role of his career.

Indeed, Pryor’s Arlo Pear is the archetypal upper-middle-class suburban husband and father. He suddenly loses his job of 14 years as a transportation engineer when his New Jersey company merges with another. As unemployment lingers, he sees no recourse to accepting a job in Boise, Idaho. The decision hits his beautiful and popular Whitney Houston-lookalike daughter Casey (Stacey Dash) especially hard. She’s in the final year of high school and has a new boyfriend.


Poor Arlo and wife Monica (Beverly Todd) are immediately beleaguered on all sides. Casey attempts to sabotage the sale of her parents’ home. A crazed next-door neighbor (Randy Quaid) adds his antics. The movers turn out to be a bunch of hooligans. And the people from whom Arlo and Monica buy their new home strip the place, down to digging up the swimming pool! The too-good-to-be-true Boy Scout type (Dana Carvey) whom Arlo hires to drive his cherished $24,000 Saab to Boise turns out to have no fewer than eight separate personalities. None of this, however, yields more than chuckles.

“Moving” is pretty flat as a comedy but is of interest as a case study in sociology, as the Pears could just as easily be white as black. There’s a certain irony that a comedy of errors, even a disappointing one, is set against the perfection of an idealized backdrop of a fully and harmoniously racially integrated society. The other irony is that even though “Moving” is quite literally a family comedy, its language is so strong that its R rating is appropriate.