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Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986)

 -  Biography | Comedy | Drama  -  2 May 1986 (USA)
6.1
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 913 users  
Reviews: 8 user | 8 critic

After severely burning himself in a drug incident, a comedian has a near death experience in which he reviews his life.

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Title: Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986)

Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling (1986) on IMDb 6.1/10

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Jo Jo Dancer / Alter Ego
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Michelle
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Arturo
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Grace
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Dawn
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Grandmother
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Satin Doll
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Mother
Scoey Mitchell ...
Father
Billy Eckstine ...
Johnny Barnett
Tanya Boyd ...
Alicia
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Cliff
E'Lon Cox ...
Little Jo Jo
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Detective Lawrence
J.J. Barry ...
Sal
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Storyline

In this film that closely parallels his own life story, Richard Pryor plays Jo Jo Dancer, a popular stand-up comedian who has severely burned himself in a drug incident. As he lies unconscious in a hospital, his spiritual alter ego gets up and begins a journey of his own. He revisits his life, from growing up in a brothel as a child and struggling to beat the long odds to become a top rated comedian. However, his success brings new problems as he develops a tragic pattern of substance abuse that begins to screw up his life. All the while, Jo Jo's spirit watches these events and attempts to convince his past self to turn off from his path of self destruction. Written by Kenneth Chisholm <kchishol@home.com>

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Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

2 May 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling  »

Filming Locations:

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Box Office

Budget:

$14,000,000 (estimated)

Gross:

$18,034,150 (USA)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Trivia

Richard Pryor's autobiographical film and his directorial debut. The movie was filmed in Los Angeles and in Peoria at the actual locations where much of the story takes place. See more »


Soundtracks

Mighty Love
Written by Joseph Jefferson, Bruce Hawes and Charles Simmons
Performed by The Spinners
Courtesy of Atlantic Recording Corp.
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
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User Reviews

Unworthy of financial failure
21 March 2003 | by (Bothell, Washington, Land of Rain) – See all my reviews

I'm not sure if a biographical film as raw and truthful as "Jo Jo Dancer" ever had a chance to be a big financial hit. But viewed now, more than 15 years later, it is obvious that the film did not deserve the critical drubbing it got back in the day. Writer-director-producer-star Richard Pryor created a very strong film, simultaneously entertaining, funny, pathetic, provocative, heartbreaking, revealing, and raw. Two things held it back. Firstly, it was too rough for the super-slick mid-80s, being shot and structured more like a seventies film. Secondly, even though the climax of the film--Jo Jo setting himself on fire in a harrowing, drug-fueled despair--is powerful, it lacks a sense of closure. Sadly, the reason for this is that, like the real life Richard Pryor upon whose life the story is based, Jo Jo doesn't die at the end. He is badly burned and we are briefly shown that he lives to continue his career, just as Pryor did.

The story is told through flashbacks, after Jo Jo has set himself on fire, focusing on how he got to that point. Since the story abruptly ends soon after his suicide attempt, however, we are not shown much of what happens after that point. In an odd bit of irony, Jo Jo's survival then makes for an unsatisfying conclusion, story-wise. It's as though Pryor is saying, hey I burned myself up and that made me all better. It just isn't satisfying.

Other than those minor points, however, "Jo Jo" is a fine film that stands as one of the best of Pryor's spotty film career, and one of the very few dramatic films that allowed his unique brand of rage and vulnerability to show through completely ("Blue Collar" and "The Mack" being two others).

Not a classic, but certainly not the bomb it was painted as in '86. And, I might add, head and shoulders above the majority of dramatic films cranked out by hollywood today.


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