By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Actor/comedian Chris Rock writes,directs, and stars in this film which comes across like a reflection on his career and some of the questionable choices he has made as an actor. With a handful of genuinely funny moments, Top Five does offer some entertainment and smart insight into the career of a comedic actor working in Hollywood today, but also has its share of not-so-funny jokes, way too obvious satire and typical romantic comedy elements. Rock certainly is an intelligent writer, but this screenplay needed some further revising.
Rock stars as Andre Allen, a financially successful comedic actor who, despite his prosperity, feels his art going stale. He wishes to revitalize his love for the craft by entering into serious, dramatic acting. While doing promotional interviews for his first dramatic film, Allen meets journalist Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), who follows him around for a piece revealing the real Andre Allen. As Andre and Chelsea get to know each other better, Andre reflects on the success and excesses of his life and work and must decide if he should continue on the same path and go through with his plans to marry reality TV star, Erica Long (Gabrielle Union).
Top Five‘s main issue has to do with the heavy handed delivery of the satire. These jokes and gags feel forced and just didn’t make me laugh much. The content and ideas are smart and relevant, but the presentation comes across like Rock is trying way too hard. I would compare it to that annoying person who tells a joke and lamely nudges with his elbow afterward saying, “Get it? Get it?” Yes, Mr. Rock, we get it. Your attempt at a historical drama is a joke and your story line about the reality star fiancee is relevant to the state of celebrity today. That is not to say that the movie doesn’t have its hilarious scenes, though.
As I previously stated, the movie does have its moments. In fact when Rock and his comedic co-stars keep the comedy simple and natural, those are the funniest ones in the film. Rock has assembled a wonderful assortment of comedy talent for his film including Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Leslie Jones, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, and Jerry Seinfeld. He allows his friends to have their moments to shine and this serves the film well. Some jokes go a tad over-the-top, but one has to laugh at the absurdity of these scenes. When the movie delves into romantic comedy territory, the elements feel all too familiar. To be fair, Rock and Dawson share a lovely chemistry on screen, but the story didn’t really have to go in that cliche direction.
Still, there is enough in this film to enjoy that I would recommend watching it as a rental or on Netflix. It’s not a movie that demands the theatrical experience; nor is it so good that people should run out and see it as soon as possible. Chris Rock definitely is a talented comedian, writer and director, but has yet to deliver his masterpiece. I liked enough of this movie that I would love to see him work on more films. I also hope that he never gives up stand up. One particularly funny scene where he performs in a comedy club is testament to the fact that he can still rock the stage.