TOP FIVE is the new film from comedian Chris Rock, as writer and director and star. I am a fan of his previous two films in that capacity, HEAD OF STATE and I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE (and the second is a notable improvement over the first), but I get the sense that not everyone is. The line on Chris Rock is that he has never been as funny in movies as he is doing stand-up, at which he is inarguably one of the best in the world. That’s got to be a nice consolation, but he still understandably wants to make movies that match the peerless quality of his stand-up sets. To be fair, it’s historically been a tall order for all the great American stand-up comedians. And Rock’s stand-up in particular is so evocative, the linguistic storytelling so visual, that adding picture to the mix can have a sense of irrelevance to it. A question, self-reflexive but still worth asking, is: As a hall-of-fame stand-up, why does he even need movies?
It looks like his solution for TOP FIVE was to incorporate this tension into the storyline itself; in other words, he’s playing a hugely successful comedian in the movie. Enlisting an insanely qualified cast, Rock gets to riff on the industry he’s in, by calling in famous friends like Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld, by having a perfectly-cast Kevin Hart play his agent, by having the underrated Gabrielle Union play his reality-star fiancee, and by having the perfectly-rated, great Rosario Dawson playing a reporter — from the New Yorker, no less — interviewing him on his career. This is more than enough story for a movie, but still allows plenty of room for Rock to get his licks in, comedically speaking. I’m no Woody Allen fan, but Chris Rock is, and he knows that this is a methodology that works. As a major Chris Rock fan, I’m tremendously excited at the prospect of a best-yet Chris Rock movie.
Holy shit, look at all those words.
I could have just said it looks really funny.
It looks really funny, by the way.
Here’s the trailer. (Cedric is the MVP in it, to me.)
TOP FIVE opens on December 5th, 2014 in limited release, and goes wide a week later on December 12th. I’ll probably be there on both dates.
— JON ABRAMS (@jonnyabomb).
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