o-TOP-FIVE-POSTER-570It seems that comedies fall into a few categories these days. The Adam Sandler/Judd Apatow/Will Ferrell & Adam McKay bunch which frankly are hit and mostly miss for me. I don’t consider them smart or insightful. They usually prey on a loser and poke fun at his quirks. Not a fan of that kind of comedy. Then there is the “hey, the first one was great let’s make another”. Those (The Hangover, etc.) started with a great and hysterical premise which worked for one movie, but the subsequent films didn’t do anything new so they became tired rehashes. Then there are the indie comedies of which I am a huge fan. They are smart, have a point of view and are much better than their box office would tend to indicate. I’m sure there are more that I’m leaving out (Tyler Perry, Kevin Hart, etc). Chris Rock’s new movie TOP FIVE is the best of all worlds. If you just want belly laughs, they are there. Two scenes come to mind. Without giving too much away, one involved Cedric The Entertainer in a hotel room with two hookers and the other involved a tampon and hot sauce. You have to see the movie to fully appreciate it. But TOP FIVE also has a point of view. Chris Rock is Andre Allen, a comedian who starred in a series of films in which he dressed up in a bear suit and fought crime as “Hammy the Bear”. After a stint in rehab and months of sobriety, he has decided to move away from comedy and do some serious acting in a movie about the slave uprising in Haiti. No laughs there. We’re dropped in the middle of his day pimping the movie around New York. Junkets, radio interviews and one really in depth interview with a New York Times reporter (Rosario Dawson) who tags along with him throughout the day. As if Andre isn’t dealing with enough—the interviews, people yelling out “Hammy Time” catch phrases and his sobriety—he is also getting ready to marry a reality TV star (Gabrielle Union) and has to deal with the insanity of a very public wedding. So you can imagine, Andre is feeling the stress. What Rock does is balance the absurd with the insightful. Andre is worried he is not funny anymore, that he can’t be the comedian he was because well, it was the booze and the coke and whatever else he used to get high. Though he won’t really admit it. So is a creative soul creative without its muse of outside stimulation? It’s a question artists, musicians and actors have struggled with for centuries. It does get answered, at least from Rock’s point of view. The pacing is great, the jokes are there and range from a titter to a full out, body shaking guffaw. There isn’t a dud of a performance anywhere. My favorites in no particular order: JB Smoove as Andre’s old friend and manager, Dawson (who’s character becomes a romantic foil for Andre), Cedric, Tracey Morgan and Leslie Jones as two friends from his old neighborhood stand out. This is Chris Rock’s best work ever. He wrote and directed it and did a great job with both. This is the Chris Rock the public deserves to see and should see more of in the future. — Alan Yudman


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