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Chris Rock dips his toe into a bit of a more serious role than we are used to, and it might be perhaps the best production he has ever done as the star.
Review (with Spoilers)
Characters & Story
Andre Allen (Chris Rock) seems based off Eddie Murphy or Martin Lawrence. He is a comic who used to be very funny, had one trilogy which perhaps was the height of his career, and now is sort of trying to find himself again. Though unlike the inspirations, Andre sadly has Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) as a fiancée who is a Reality TV star who seemingly fully plans to mooch off his fame to further her 15 minutes. Thing is, Andre isn’t into her, nor this grandeur wedding, and really just wants to focus on not drinking, and getting through this interview with Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Someone who, like Long in a way, wants to use Andre’s fame to push her career forward; however, unlike Long she does seem to actually care about the man behind the fame and the comedy which made him famous.
Until Dreamgirls, I never saw Eddie Murphy as any sort of serious actor, and I’m still waiting on Martin Lawrence to really try a serious drama, but when it comes to Chris Rock, unlike Jim Carrey, or Adam Sandler, he doesn’t just jump into a drama and then hit the track running. No, instead, with Top Five, he eases his way into unfamiliar territory by making the character familiar, have the issue of alcoholism, fame, and reinvention, while also taking note of the issues in celebrity culture.
Though, alongside Rock, even if briefly, I must admit I also liked how he gave Union the chance to represent all the Reality TV stars which have popped up over the last decade and gave them a voice. For while Erica Long isn’t a big character, she is given just enough for us to get why she acts the way she does, and for you to understand it enough to feel sorry for her. Then, when you think about the people who she would be peers with, also feel sorry for them too.
As for the rest of the movie, I would call this film, without question, a dramedy. One which isn’t like most comedy films out there which are focused on punch line after punch line, but rather has the type of jokes you can see comedians have if they were just hanging out and talking. Which perhaps is what really helps make the story shine for it doesn’t make it seem Rock, nor anyone really, are pushing themselves to be something they are not. If anything, you can see from Whoopi Goldberg, DMX, and the others who pop up a sense of realness. Like, as much as Andre Allen isn’t a real person, and perhaps the lines for all the guest stars were written for them, there is something authentic in their advice, their jokes, and it makes this seem almost like an inside look into the mind of people whose careers have been entertaining others, while trying to deal with their demons.
First, right off the bat, let me say this film was not as funny as I was expecting it to be. Especially considering the names involved, the hoopla over how much was paid to buy the film and the fact it seemingly is getting a wider release than originally planned. Though perhaps the bigger issues, when it came to comedy, was Kevin Hart and Cedric the Entertainer’s inclusions. If just because they seemed so out of place in this movie. For with Kevin Hart seeming like a kid who has had too much sugar, and Cedric the Entertainer still trying to figure out his place in a world where The Kings of Comedy no longer makes him relevant, it makes their inclusion, and scenes, feel like they should have been cut. Especially since, focusing specifically on Hart, his character is barely in the movie. As for Cedric, he is still playing some weirdo and, not to be mean, I can only assume his casting is to either pay homage or because he is fun to work with.
Outside of that, there are perhaps some offensive gay jokes in the movie, and I must admit I really didn’t like that Rock and Dawson’s character, Chelsea, took their chemistry toward possibly having some sort of relationship. If just because, while Rock and Dawson play off each other really well, it weirdly was both natural and forced the way it was handled. Natural in the sense that they fit together well, but forced due to her situation with her boyfriend, and then the handling of Andre with his fiancée.
Overall: Worth Seeing
Let me note this is on the low end of worth seeing mostly because it isn’t as funny as I thought it would be. Not to say you won’t laugh, for listening to DMX trying to sing was funny, among other moments, but this film really does seem like Chris Rock trying to slowly transition into doing more serious roles, rather than him releasing another comedy just to keep his name out there. With that said, though, story wise, it is probably the best movie he has done since, maybe, Head of State. Something which came out a decade ago. Which perhaps is the main thing pushing this toward the lower echelons of Worth Seeing.
Things To Note
Correct me if I’m wrong, but did Taraji and Andre hook up during the filming of his movie? It seemed like they may have when they interacted during the press junket.
Perhaps another thing worth criticizing is this weird ass story, which leads to us meeting Cedric the Entertainer’s character, which deals with two prostitutes, a lot of ejaculation fluids, and Chris Rock looking traumatized.