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Bustin' Loose (1981)

 -  Comedy  -  22 May 1981 (USA)
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Joe Braxton is an ex-con who has been given a second chance to freedom after violating his probation. He has been hired by a school teacher named Vivian Perry to repair and drive an old ... See full summary »


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Title: Bustin' Loose (1981)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jimmy Hughes ...
Edwin DeLeon ...
Edwin Kinter ...
Tami Luchow ...
Janet Wong ...
Alphonso Alexander ...
Kia Cooper ...
Robert Christian ...
Doctor Wilson T. Renfrew
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Judge Antonio Runzuli
Klan Leader
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Alfred Schuyler


Joe Braxton is an ex-con who has been given a second chance to freedom after violating his probation. He has been hired by a school teacher named Vivian Perry to repair and drive an old school bus and drive a group of Special kids to Ms. Perry's Washington Farm from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to give them a new home after The Clarmont Center for Children is shut down by the city. The kids have severe mental problems and Joe is not looking forward to the trip at all, but Joe later bonds with Vivian and the children, offering his support and love and changes his outlook on life. But Donald, the social worker and Vivian's lover who gave Joe his break is hot on their tail and wants Joe back in prison. Joe and Vivian must now prevent Donald from sending the children back to Philidelphia where they'll have no future. Written by Geoffrey A. Middleton <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He's mad, he's bad, and he's Bustin' Loose!




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

22 May 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Family Dreams  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


During production of this film, Richard Pryor suffered serious injury when he accidentally set himself on fire in a drug-related mishap. See more »


When Braxton is sentenced to probation and being dragged out the courtroom, he grabs his coat. He is then dragged out the room. When he rushes back in and yells, you can see his coat lying on the floor outside. She he's pushed back outside the final time, his coat is in his hand again. See more »


Joe Braxton: [yelling at the kids after they learned of the possible farm loss and are whining amongst themselves] Shut up!
Ernesto: [to Joe] Go take a hike!
Joe Braxton: [smacks him across the face hard enough to knock him down] Shut up!
See more »


Referenced in Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986) See more »


The Children's Song
Written by Roberta Flack, Barry Miles & Dwight D. Watkins
Performed by Roberta Flack
See more »

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User Reviews

Warm-hearted comedy
2 May 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

When a movie can make you laugh and cry, it's a rare quality. Many people don't have a high tolerance for adults, but are suckers for kids. I am proud to say that I fall into this category, as does Richard Pryor's character Joe Braxton in this film. He plays a foul-mouthed, ill-mannered ex-con, who is, let's face it, a bum. For some reason, though, he is likable. Maybe it's because he still has an optimistic outlook about his life. His biggest strength, which almost proves to be his undoing, is that he is willing to do more for others than he is for himself. This is what I felt made "Bustin' Loose" such a touching movie.

Joe Braxton is a parolee who has been given a second chance to rebuild his life. His only problem is, he can't really seem to find a purpose on the outside, and just doesn't know how to make it. In a hilarious courtroom scene where he is about to be sent back to prison for larceny, in violation of his parole, he is given ten years probation by the judge.

His parole officer, however, is amused, but not at all fooled by the courtroom shenanigans. So, as a favor, his parole officers needs a favor. A group of disadvantaged Philadelphia youths have had their school closed as a result of budget cuts. Cicely Tyson, who portrays her character brilliantly, plays their supervisor who is also the girlfriend of Joe's parole officer. She and the kids need to be driven across country to her family's Washington state farm to start over. Joe is asked to drive the bus and return in 15 days.

This is where the movie takes a wonderful turn for the better and gives some pleasant surprises. It could have been a silly Disney-like movie with cute, fake dialog that cuts corners and makes you want to throw up at the end (like Dead Poet's Society). Instead of all that nonsense and garbage, we heard words of truth, and witness some convincing changes.

At first, Joe sees this as a chore and the kids as nothing but a bunch of losers. Later though, he begins to bond with the kids and discovers, as does the kids, that he actually really does care about them because he doesn't want what happened to him to happen to them. He finds a purpose, and a reason to be happy. He becomes a pleasant, and is actually a warm person after all who just needed the right people to bring out the goodness in him. Perhaps this is because his love for the kids makes him forget about his problems and worry about their well-being.

There are some tough scenes, too. There is boy who has experienced a tragedy, not intentionally, but because of a problem he cannot help. Another one of the youths solicits prostitution to Joe. There are also about whether the kids will be able to keep their new home, or if Joe can actually make it on the outside. All of these scenes show reality and how people find the courage to deal with their own lives. Richard Pryor plays these scenes with a quiet, subtle brilliance. He is not just a funny comedian, he is also a good actor.

The only flaw the movie has is that it seems to lack some little scenes to make Prior's character develop his relationship and bond together with the kids and Cicely Tyson's character. Don't get me wrong, it's usually better to keep an audience wanting more than to drag a movie out, but I think this one may have benefited from more running time. The transition from con to nice guy seemed just a little bit too quick, and I think this could have been the difference between making this a great movie instead of a good one. It's as though the screenwriter didn't sit down and rewrite quite thoroughly enough. That, however, is easily forgiven and forgotten.

I will not give away what happens, I will say only this: I was pleasantly surprised because this movie wasn't just a comedy. There are a lot of serious scenes, too, and the ending is very perceptive about human behavior. Bustin' Loose is not a masterpiece, but it is an entertaining, convincing movie, and it works because of the performances. If you pay attention, you'll be surprised at how moved you are at the end of this delightful comedy, and you might even shed a tear.

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