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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Five 2014 * * 1/2 Stars

Top FiveDirector: Chris Rock
Year: 2014
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union

God bless Chris Rock. He has always been for my money, the best comedian on the planet. If you worship him as much as I do and you haven't yet seen his 2014 release Top Five, well you're probably wondering if it's as funny as his work in the stand-up routine department. Sadly, I'm here to say that it's not. That doesn't mean that what's on screen is lousy, it's just mildly uneven. I think I heard somewhere that this 102 minute vehicle might be considered Oscar material come January. Might have to pump the breaks on that one.

Serving as director, writer, and star of a sort of feature film akin to his Everybody Hates Chris television show, Top Five features Rock surprisingly dumbing himself down to make his lead role seem less smarmy, less cool, and well, less funny. He'd rather give all the humorous stuff to his co-stars in the form of non-stop cameos. To his credit though, he has a keen eye behind the camera with his direction being spotty, yet swift and confident. If there weren't so many disjointed, inconsistent flashbacks documenting his character's life (anywhere between ten years ago to five hours ago), I would have praised his directorial efforts a bit more. Alas, he is for the most part, better off just doing stage comedy. It's where he belongs, not parading around in a film involving raunchy dialogue (a lot of n-words and f words) where the actors speak rapidly as if they were stuck in a bad version of something Kevin Smith directed circa 1995.

Featuring half the cast of Think Like a Man (it seems that Kevin Hart has to appear in everything these days), augmenting Gabrielle Union in a role as a reality television star (in a real life interview she said she disliked reality television. Talk about hypocrisy), and glamorizing sexual innuendo in the form of rectal exams and threesomes (with Freddie Jackson's "You Are My Lady" playing in the background, how poetic), Top Five chronicles comedic actor turned serious thespian, Andre Allen (played with various levels of stiffness by Chris Rock). Allen is I guess, meant to be an alter ego of the real life Chris Rock. Or Rock, an already established movie star himself, could just be playing Allen as another movie star. I couldn't tell. Anyway, his Andre Allen made his name in Hollywood via the lead in the fictional "Hammy The Bear" franchise. He played a cop in a bear suit and these films made enough money to relegate two more sequels. Cut to present day where he's now a recovering alcoholic, he's leaning towards doing more serious work like slave dramas ("Uprising" is something new he's promoting), and currently he's partaking in a personal interview with New York Times reporter, Chelsea Brown (played by Rosario Dawson who's character is also reluctantly trying to stay off the sauce). As the proceedings move along, he eventually has to get back to I guess, L.A. where he must marry Bravo TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union). But wait, he develops some feelings for Brown and the two produce some sparks. I can't reveal anything more only to let the audience know that this thing felt to me like life imitating art. "Five's" sometimes repugnant nature however, managed to smear said art.

Now as mentioned earlier, Top Five revels in countless cameos and they're the best thing it has going for it. Look for sightings of Jerry Seinfeld, Tracy Morgan, Whoopi Goldberg, DMX, and Adam Sandler just to name a few. DMX is a hoot as he plays himself singing the blues inside a jail cell (there's a stretch). As for Sandler, he's actually funnier playing Adam Sandler than he ever has been helming the lead in other countless, wretched films. His scenes as a customer at a strip club are without a doubt, priceless.

In conclusion, I'd rather watch Rock's comedy special Bring the Pain than seeing him clamour at the idea of channeling his inner Woody Allen. He walks the streets of New York City with a beautiful woman. He's angry, sullen, and defensive but gosh, his character is also a rich movie star. Could his Andre just for once, lighten the heck up! Gees. As for the film's stab at vulgar stipulations, well they don't equal many real laughs. I mean, would you want to see Cedric The Entertainer having loud sex with two woman? Uh, neither would I. Bottom line: Top Five is no "top tier" when it comes to the workings of staunch comedic timing. Result: A poultry 2 and half stars.

Of note: If you decide on seeing Top Five, pay close attention to the ending which seems like a homage to the age old tale of Cinderella. Also, pay attention to pictures of our last two U.S. Presidents subliminally placed on the walls of various hotel rooms and houses. As for the films title, Top Five if you haven't already heard, refers to the naming of every one's favorite five rap groups (if anyone cares, 2Pac is number one for me). Finally, if you take a gander at Chris Rock, it's uncanny how young he looks. I'm serious. He appears the same way he did about twenty years ago. Seriously, the dude does not age. Except for one or two gray hairs, he's Rob Lowe incarnated. Crazy.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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