Top Five (2014)

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Chris Rock has been all over the news in the last few weeks, as his commentary on black fame, black inclusion in Hollywood, and general politics have taken the entertainment industry by storm. He’s coming out with guns blazing and it’s pretty freaking awesome. Everything that he’s been saying is solid and unfortunately true. With this film, Rock is pouring his heart and soul into every line and the result is really something special. I highly recommend reading this piece, as it’s one of the best I’ve seen this year. http://www.vulture.com/2014/11/chris-rock-frank-rich-in-conversation.html

Andre is asked to put some "stank" on this recording.
Andre is asked to put some “stank” on this recording.

Andre Allen (Chris Rock) was hailed as the “funniest man alive” at one point in his career. He had successfully done stand-up for a few years and then broke into the movie business with the trilogy of “Hammy the Bear”. Now, Allen is venturing into the world of drama with a film about the Haitian revolution. The only problem is, no one believes that he’s a serious actor and everyone wants “funny” Andre back. Amid the film’s coming release, Andre is also getting married to a reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) on Bravo!

When Andre is told by his best-friend and bodyguard (J.B. Smoove) that a young woman wants to interview him for the New York Times, Andre reluctantly accepts and it’s then that he meets Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). Rather than asking questions that every other reporter does, Chelsea attempts to get to the heart of Allen and understand what he’s doing in his life right now.

Andre and Chelsea talk, as they roam the streets of NYC.
Andre and Chelsea talk, as they roam the streets of NYC.

Top Five is Chris Rock’s crowning achievement in his long and hilarious career, as he pours his heart and soul into this latest and greatest effort. Full of passion for change and for different forms of art, Top Five is a personal film for Rock, as it’s somewhat of a reflection of his own life. The script is original, hilarious, and speaks out about many things that are unfortunately true in the entertainment business. More than that, Top Five is somewhat of an ode to comedians and Rock’s focus on family and friends is even more effective than he may think.

Chris Rock is genius in this film, writing, directing, and acting in something that clearly means a great deal to him. His troubled past and yearning to move to something more serious is something that’s understandable and Rock’s humor makes his day-to-day life all the more interesting. He speaks a lot on standup comedy, what goes into it, and how there’s nothing more exciting and frightening than being up on-stage. He also understands that people don’t want serious from the funny people. His general attitude and outlook on life incorporate themselves well into this film and when Rock is speaking, you’re either laughing your ass off, or you’re completely invested in everything that he’s saying.

Andre and pose for cameras.
Andre and Erica pose for cameras.

Rosario Dawson stretches her actress legs and puts on quite the show, propelling the story forward with her witty humor and posing questions. Her character likes to challenge Rock’s and through that, she learns about who he really is. She has her own issues on the home-front and her interactions with Rock are quite sweet. Cedric the Entertainer has a hilarious role in the film which essentially allows him to let loose and become the highest of rollers. J.B. Smoove, longtime best-friend of Rock’s, holds down the more serious side to Rock, while also having some fun on the side. Garbielle Union also gets some scene chewing time and she and the audience have a blast with her reality star lifestyle.

Where Top Five really excels is with its script and the approach it takes to the material. Rock’s character, through interviews, takes us back to his early standup career and we see how his character is formed over time. The public latches on to his iconic “Hammy” character like the superheroes of today and his want for them to respect his serious work rings true with many of today’s celebrities. The reality T.V. angle is especially funny and unfortunately true, as everything is a show for people and nothing remains private or intimate. The more private and intimate moments reveal themselves when Rock is around the people he started with and it’s wonderful to see him joke around with Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tracey Morgan.

Andre goes back to his roots.
Andre goes back to his roots.

The film is at its strongest point when Rock and Dawson are just walking around and talking about the industry. Many people have drawn Woody Allen comparisons, mainly Annie Hall, to this film and it’s not hard to see why. The film does balance everything well and Dawson’s character is extremely well-written, but it could have used some more time focusing on the Bravo wedding. Gabrielle Union is gold in this film, but she’s not around long enough to really leave a huge impact on the audience and with the characters. As far as I could tell, though, that was my biggest issue with this film and it only felt like a minor issue to me.

Top Five is one of, if not, this year’s funniest films and it’s heart and relevancy make it all the more amazing. Chris Rock has really made something to be proud of and it’s evident that this movie is going to do very well. The cast really add to the overall experience, as you point out and laugh with some of the most recognizable comedians of today. That fear of transitioning to something new and not knowing if you can do something old is all too real and Rock handles the subject with graceful humor. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t enjoy this movie and while it might not make my top five, it’s certainly one of the year’s top films.

Top Five Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkfeeZ1Z2s8

4 STARS!!!

4 / 5 stars     

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