Which Way is Up? (1977)

Which Way is Up? (1977)

“Which way is up, sucker? You forget who you are and where you came from?”

An orchard worker (Richard Pryor) living with his wife (Margaret Avery), his horny father (also Richard Pryor), and many others in a tiny house accidentally becomes aligned with a protest movement and is forced out of town by his company. Once in the big city of Los Angeles, Leroy (Pryor) falls in love with a beautiful organizer (Lonette McKee) and starts a family with her — but when he accidentally witnesses the murder of a prominent activist, he’s sent back to his small town, where he begins to live a double life with both McKee and Avery (who is suddenly sexually interested in him). Complicating matters even further, Avery admits she’s been impregnated by her “spiritual counselor” Reverend Thomas (also Richard Pryor), which sets Leroy on a vengeful mission to sleep with the Reverend’s pious wife (Marilyn Coleman).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • African-Americans
  • Comedy
  • Corruption
  • Infidelity
  • Revenge
  • Richard Pryor Films

This loose remake of Lina Wertmuller’s The Seduction of Mimi (1972) is an awful misfire from start to finish. It was clearly designed as a star vehicle for Pryor, playing three utterly unlikable characters who aggressively pursue and/or cheat on women.

There is little incentive to care about the central protagonist’s travails, and the screenplay simply reinforces racial stereotypes through profanity and caricatures. It’s hard to see what appealed to Pryor about this one, other than the chance to bed several beautiful women onscreen and inhabit multiple roles a la Eddie Murphy (who was much more skilled at this). Skip it.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
Not many.

Must See?
No, unless you’re a diehard Pryor fan.


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