April 2, 2015

Top Five (2014)

Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove

This is not a movie.

I mean, sure, it has characters, and a semblance of a plot, but ultimately, it's just a hodge podge of clips of Chris Rock and/or other comedians talking. If not for the "Top Five" theme of asking everyone who their top five rappers were, this movie would lack any sort of tie between many of the scenes. It's bizarre.

For a large chunk of the movie, I wondered if Chris Rock was making some sort of parody/commentary on his own career. After all, he was a successful stand-up comedian who really hit mega-bucks in the mainstream by voicing the zebra in the Madagascar series. Then, like his character in Top Five, he stopped being funny. He tried the serious role in I Think I Love My Wife, as well as just flat out not-funny comedies like What to Expect When You're Expecting. It's crazy! How does someone just stop being funny?

I thought this movie might have some insightful answers because frankly, I think we'd all welcome a return to Chris Rock's humor, wherever it's gone. Instead, I got a convoluted attempt at tackling the depths of alcoholism via snippets of cliched conversation about drinking. Perhaps I imbue too much political thought into trivial movies, but reading this deeply thought-provoking article shortly before watching this movie has made me suddenly skeptical of any movie that talks about alcoholism. (And weirdly sympathetic to all the celebrities bouncing in and out of rehab.)

It's almost as if he thought this movie would absolve him of what hipsters like to call "selling out." I don't have a problem with people trying to cash in on their talents and going mainstream. "Making it" is the dream. This is why you don't see underground bands turning down huge record label contracts to keep playing in nightclubs for $50/night. No one's craft is so special that they won't make some compromises for money. But essentially taking every role offered to you, then pretending each one is special and worth people's time and money to watch? (I'm talking to you too, Nicholas Cage.) One semi-serious movie written, produced, and performed by you will not make me forget Grown-Ups 2 any time soon.

And for the record, "Top Five" should really mean this, but I'll play along.
1. Tupac
2. Jay-Z
3. Eminem
4. Snoop
5. Biggie 

Final word: Save yourself time and just play Top Five with your own friends. It would be more entertaining.

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