Film Review: TOP FIVE

topfiveTOP FIVE
Written and Directed by Chris Rock
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle union, J. B. Smoove, Kevin Hart

A few years ago, Chris Rock made an insightful movie called BAD HAIR. It looked at the impact that white culture’s ideas of beauty has on African-Americans, especially where hair is concerned. It was funny but also pithy. In that film, he served as the narrator rather than a character, a role that worked better for him.

The same humor and pithyness is true with TOP FIVE, which also has some common plotting with the recent BIRDMAN. In both films, the stars (Keaton and Rock) have made their reputation from playing ridiculous creatures in a series of movies. And in both films, the stars are trying to shed it. In Rock’s case, he has chosen to make a movie where thousands of white people are slaughtered to lay claim a new direction. The likelihood of its success is nil. He is also set to marry a reality star that he seems to have no interest in.

When a New York Times reporter asks to spend a day with him, it seems like he might be taken seriously. The two drift around New York, visiting their families and friends, sharing conversation on issues like the price of fame, the nature of modern journalism, what constitutes humor, PLANET OF THE APES, racism, etc. The two are likable and appealing although Rock’s delivery of lines tends to be one-note and pitched too high for comfort. And he has not created a viable character here so much as given himself a platform. Dawson does better. Nevertheless, there are some very funny scenes, especially when his family comes into view. He knows how to make us laugh.

In the last thirty minutes, a discussion of issues gives way to pure romance. This is not necessarily a bad thing because we have heard what Rock wants to say by now. One other thing, there was more than a fair share of misogynistic dialogue and behavior. Perhaps an easy laugh but disappointing.

Patti Abbott