Top Five (2014)

topfive_2014_poster
Top Five (2014)
  • Time: 101 min
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Chris Rock
  • Cast: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union

Storyline:

A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.

3 reviews

  • “I want to make uplifting entertainment,” Andre Allen (Chris Rock) declares in Top Five. Like Birdman’s Riggan Thomsen, Allen longs to free the shackles of his blockbuster franchise Hammy the Bear for something more serious, and he’s banking on his latest film Uprize to take him to that next level. Prospects for the dramatisation of the Haitian Revolution of 1791 are grim, but Allen is convinced he can turn it around during his various promotional rounds in his hometown of New York City. “It could be like a Haitian Django,” he tells his exasperated agent (Kevin Hart).

    It’s an uphill climb – everyone would rather ask about when he’ll be putting on the bear suit for another Hammy the Bear or his upcoming televised wedding to reality star Eric Long (Gabrielle Union). Then there’s Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), the New York Times journalist assigned to follow him around for the day for a profile piece. He’s reluctant to cooperate – the Times’ film critic James Nielson has a history of savagely excoriating his movies – but acquiesces when Chelsea stresses that she’ll write a fair piece provided Allen is “rigorously honest” with her.

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  • 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.

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  • Chris Rock’s latest directorial effort Top Five is a sort of self-analysis on the part of Rock looking back at his own career and the choices that he has made. While it does not perhaps overtly cover every aspect Rock’s career, there are enough parallels to be drawn.

    Andre Allen (Rock) is a former stand up comedian who made the leap to acting and made himself a star by starring in a buddy cop franchise as a talking bear cop. He returns to his hometown of New York to promote his latest more serious film Uprize, where he plays the leader of the biggest slave rebellion to ever happen. He is due to marry reality TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) in a big televised spectacle, but first has to partake in his equally televised and scripted bachelor party. In the day leading up to the party, he is joined by New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) who is going to follow him around and do a profile piece about his career.

    Top Five is a tough movie to crack. It doesn’t really fit into any genre (comedy or drama) so you’re not sure if you should be laughing at any antics. It does seem to be a personal film for Rock, as his character is struggling with fame, sobriety and falling out of love with the thing that made him famous in the first place; comedy, but it didn’t really reach out to me, as I’m not struggling with being super famous. I will give the film some props for boldly looking at the structure of reality TV in a negative light.

    The movie is also centred two rather large flashback centrepieces that I have trouble placing in the overall story. One is of Andre’s story of when he knew he’d hit rock bottom with his drinking problem. It is set ten years earlier and is when he is on a tour in Houston and ends up sleeping with some hookers at the insistence of his contact there, Jazzy Dee (Cedric the Entertainer). The other story is from Chelsea Brown about how she comes finally to the conclusion that her boyfriend Brad (Anders Holm) is gay, due to an incident involving a tampon covered in hot sauce. These stories both have fun little jokes and do serve in creating a bond between Andre and Chelsea, but also disrupt the flow of the timeframe of the movie.

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