The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
“Jo Jo Dancer” begins when its hero already is an entertainment superstar. We track him restlessly around his luxurious Hollywood home as he calls a drug dealer and sets up a party, all the time claiming that he's off drugs. He throws bottles and paraphernalia into the fireplace, screams to himself that he's gotta stop, and then decides to do cocaine one last time. The rest of the scene is borrowed from the headlines, as Jo Jo is raced into an emergency room with burns over most of his body.
He faces a turning point. Will he choose to live, or die? Jo Jo's alter ego separates from his body, looks down at the bandages, and says, "Jo Jo, what have you done to us this time?" And then the alter ego embarks on a trip back through Jo Jo's life and the memories that will die if the body dies.
We see little Jo Jo being raised in a small Ohio town, where his grandmother runs a whorehouse, and his mother is one of the girls. We see the affection he receives, but also the conflicting signals about sex, race, and booze. Later, after his mother has married, there is tension at home after Jo Jo announces that he thinks he could become a nightclub comedian. There are painful scenes of his first stumbling attempts to entertain an audience, and then the night when he talks back to a drunk and begins to find his own onstage voice.
This early show-business material supplies the most heartfelt material in the film, and some of its best characters, especially a stripper named Satin Doll (Paula Kelly), who befriends Jo Jo and gets him his first job. Backstage, we meet the boozy old emcee (Art Evans), and the veteran trouper (Billy Eckstine). There is a great sequence where Pryor, dressed in drag, pulls out a fake pistol and tries to bluff the club's Mafia owners into paying him his salary.