Top Five (2014)

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Top Five: Directed by Chris Rock. With Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union. A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality television star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her television show.

“Thereu0026#39;s a scene in this film, Chris Rocku0026#39;s latest as auteur and star, where he performs in a comedy club. Itu0026#39;s the first time in years his character, Andre Allen, has performed and from a story point of view it seems rushed and contrived. How he gets to this point isnu0026#39;t exactly organic to whatu0026#39;s been going on just before, and only makes sense in the sense that the script dictates itu0026#39;s here that he gets, for lack of a better phrase, his u0026#39;grooveu0026#39; back on stage. Nevermind that the character hasnu0026#39;t performed in so long – albeit some of the material, to be fair, ties back in with some troubles heu0026#39;s having with his fiancé, so thatu0026#39;s fine – he kills and everyone loves it. Why do they love it really? Well, this is where it gets tricky, and why I recommend Top Five: itu0026#39;s funny. And Chris Rocku0026#39;s funny. Heu0026#39;s a great stand up. He doesnu0026#39;t transcend his own problematic script, but he and the cast do much better than it couldu0026#39;ve been.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eThe basic premise has more than a touch of Stardust Memories – in case you canu0026#39;t tell, which is possible, Woody Allen is one of Rocku0026#39;s heroes – as Allen doesnu0026#39;t want to do funny movies anymore (heu0026#39;s been u0026quot;Hammy the Bearu0026quot; for three films, making this kind of a double-bill/companion piece for this yearu0026#39;s Birdman), and has a new, serious work where he plays a Haitian white-man-killing revolutionary. Heu0026#39;s spending this one day going around New York city, promoting the film, visiting his family, doing this and that, and heu0026#39;s tagged along by a journalist (Rosario Dawson, who is terrific here by the way), who wants a personal-profile scoop. Heu0026#39;s not having it, at first, but over the course of a day and night and lots of memories of things gone wrong – he was/is an alcoholic, as she is, conveniently enough – he opens up.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAgain, not a strong story entirely, though it has its moments. Really, itu0026#39;s actually the moments that Rock wins best at here: when he goes to visit his family (first his father, who seems to be kind of a bum but itu0026#39;s funny/sad seeing Allen have to haggle with him over money) and how they all rag on him, and he rags on them back, you can see the warmth and improvisation going on (how much is scripted is anyoneu0026#39;s guess, but the tone is just right and the jokes all work in this piece). His set pieces, mostly in the flashbacks, keep bringing the comedy forward and he has many, many funny lines, but even funnier situations for his actors. Cedric the Entertainer especially steals his scenes, but the same can go for Kevin Hart, JB Smoove (to an extent, though he has really one shtick), and even Brian Regan in an uncredited cameo. And DMX… Jesus.u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eA lot of the film also hinges on Rock and Dawson, and despite a third act reveal (is it a twist?) that made me roll my eyes, their chemistry really sells much of the film. He has just great dialog for the two of them to play off one another, so that we can still buy *them* even if not always the story or situations that develop. u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eAnd, again it must be stressed, the movie is funny. Sometimes itu0026#39;s very funny – Iu0026#39;d be remiss to forget that Seinfeld and Adam Sandler show up at a bachelor party and had me crying laughing – and that helps it make it just an unabashed crowd-pleaser first, cutting satire second, which I think was really Rocku0026#39;s goal here. Whether he was trying to also make a GREAT film, I donu0026#39;t know. At its very best, it does come closer than any Rock film to show the sorts of topics he does in his stand up brought to a dramatic context, like the whole marriage-TV-show sub-plot with Gabrielle Union (who is also fantastic here).u003cbr/u003eu003cbr/u003eBut hey, for a night out – as a date-night movie itu0026#39;s especially adept – it works, and itu0026#39;ll get you thinking about your own Top Five after a while. Or if youu0026#39;d ever see Rock play a Bear-cop (obviously a play on Martin Lawrence more than himself, though ironically Rock wrote the script while on set for Grown-Ups 2, so it goes).”


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