A Review By Ben Hunter
4½ Out Of 5 Stars
GET TO THE POINT BEN!
Chris Rock is NOT an actor, the core needs more light, but even still, I had such an AMAZING experience!
New York City present day, Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is an all star celebrity known for his stand up comedy. Naturally, he becomes involved with other venues of entertainment that celebrities do such as movies. His comedy film series, Hammy the Bear, a set of commercial, cheesy, action flicks out to make a quick dollar, have taken off. But Andre wants to be taken serious as a real and true artist (obviously Rock pulled from personal experiences to write and direct this film). So Andre stars in a new serious film about the Haitian Revolution, Uprize. But the film is just not connecting with critics and our story takes place on its debut. This is in the midst of his reality-televised engagement with fiancé Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) who feels this is her only chance at stardom because she also feels talentless. So she pressures him to do what she feels he should, thus inspiring the disarray. But she helped Andre get clean from drugs and alcohol. So he feels obliged not to leave her and stay in an unhappy relationship.
Oh, and now, the day of the film’s release, a reporter for the New York Times Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) wants to interview Andre and do a story on him. This is something he doesn’t want obviously in the midst of all the stress provided by his career and marriage, but as Chelsea normally pushes, in addition to other encouraging factors, against his will, Andre goes along with the interview hoping this will help his new film get the press it needs, relieve some of the weight from his wedding, and hopefully bring him a little closer to happiness.
Top Five is Chris Rock’s official colossal incision at becoming a respected artist. Just like his character Andre in the film, this is his stance at being taken serious and not just be seen as “the funny guy”. This is what’s taking place in my book, as we follow Andre & Chelsea around New York for the day as Andre goes about his errands of his new film’s release and all the running around needed for a wedding on the very near horizon.
Well, I thought it was funny, extremely funny. I know Chris Rock wouldn’t really want to hear that as my main take away. But this was a funny story that I enjoyed following along with. Chris Rock is not an actor. Let me say that again, CHRIS ROCK IS NOT AN ACTOR! Quite terrible I might add, and why I believe he felt compelled to create Top Five. This is after we all came to grasps with the fact of his acting ability with his work with Julie Delpy (one of my girls) in 2 Days In New York (2012). So I don’t blame him for wanting to make this film. It was a huge hit at The Toronto International Film Festival, so much so that it caused an all out war with the studios who all fought for it. I loved this film, and the message Chris Rock made with it in regards to race in Hollywood behind the scenes (see his interview with The Hollywood Reporter), his work as an artist not just of a comedic nature, but in filmmaking and such … he’s just not an actor. That’s all I mean by that.
I do cringe a little when I see celebrities from other industries take a stab in this one as I feel a little of the “cutting in line” aspect. But Chris Rock has had film ambitions for a while now, as this is his 3rd time in the director’s chair. He’s received full directing and writing credits for this film; he’s been trying to respectfully break into film for awhile. So this is not as bad as when I see The Rock, or Beyoncé, and the like. But that’s another post for another day.
I wish I could’ve felt more of the human relations to life lessons that we can take away and better ourselves with as a result. There were a lot of funny everyday situations and the story properly segued from part to plot, etc. But is it about love and never giving up for love? Is it about dealing with life’s mess and how there will always be mess and it’s about being content with mess to realize it’s not mess? Is it about your top five favorite rappers (which, in case you wondering: Eminem, Jay-Z, André 3000, The Notorious B.I.G., Snoop)? What’s that one major thing? The core of this story needs to be revealed just a little bit more.
But I could feel myself genuinely engaging with this story as Chris Rock had me truly laughing from that place at the bottom of your stomach to know “this is real humor”. Some of the comedy was quite sophisticated as I could hear I was the only one laughing at some of it and not just the obvious quirks. So I know this is from a neighborhood of “quality”, that place of artistry that Chris Rock is desperately trying to find his home within and not of just “commercial success”.
He’s almost there. And I’m happy for him!
Comedy, 102 Minutes, R
Written & Directed by: Chris Rock
Cast: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Anders Holm, & Cedric The Entertainer