Top Five

Posted on December 11, 2014 at 5:59 pm

MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug use
Copyright 2014 Paramount Pictures
Copyright 2014 Paramount Pictures

Why is it that we love to talk about our top five? Is it because it gives us a sense of order in the midst of chaos? Is it because we feel that if we can somehow distill the whole world into a definitive top five (with a possible but un-canonical sixth position just to make it interesting), that will reveal something essential about the person doing the ranking?

Writer/director/star Chris Rock plays Andre, a stand-up comic turned wildly successful movie star, with a series of dumb comedy blockbuster hits where he plays Hammy the Bear, an ursine cop with a gun as quick as his wisecracks and catch phrases. Like the director in “Sullivan’s Travels” and the stand-up comic turned actor and filmmaker in “Stardust Memories,” Andre wants to do something serious and meaningful. He has made a new film called “Uprize,” a drama based on the real-life slave rebellion in late 18th century Haiti, and he is on a publicity tour to promote it. He is also about to get married to a reality star (Gabrielle Union as the exquisitely airbrushed and relentlessly determined Erica), who has made every element of the wedding and their lives together a branding opportunity. And he has agreed to spend the day with Chelsea, a New York Times reporter (Rosario Dawson) who begins by asking him why he isn’t funny anymore and wants him to describe what it felt like to hit bottom before he became sober.

Andre and Chelsea travel all over the New York, visiting the inner city neighborhood where his friends and family jockey between pride and resentment. The girlfriend who was there at the beginning is sorry she quit before he hit it big. The old friends tease him about how he was never the funniest one in the group and remind him to keep it real. Andre also has a talk with some older men on the street. One calls him “Hollywood” — but asks for money. We learn his relationship to Andre. It is understated, but significant.

No one is buying tickets to “Uprize.” And “everyone in the barbershop wants to see in the bear costume” for Hammy 4.

Rock has often seemed awkward or uncomfortable on screen, even in “Head of State,” which he directed, especially in scenes with women. But here he shows a welcome naturalness and confidence. We got a glimpse of those qualities in his best previous performance, “2 Days in New York,” which has a similar intimate, improvisational vibe. This time, playing a central character who shares some of his experiences — and some of his friends, with Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld making cameos — Rock’s performance is nuanced, thoughtful, very, very funny, and touching as well.  It is the funniest movie of the year, in part because it is so sharply observed.  Andre may think the best way to deliver a message is with a serious drama, but Chris Rock knows better.

Parents should know that this film has extremely strong, explicit, and crude language including the n-word, extremely explicit sexual references and situations, and very crude humor, substance abuse including drugs, and mild comic peril.

Family discussion: What will Andre do next? Would you go to see his movie about the slave rebellion? What is “rigorous honesty?” Who’s in your top five and why is it fun to try to rank your favorites?

If you like this, try: “Sullivan’s Travels,” “Stardust Memories” and Chris Rock’s stand-up performance films and television series

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Comedy Movies -- format

Bee Movie

Posted on March 10, 2008 at 8:00 am

Jerry Seinfeld will always be remembered for creating a brilliant and beloved television show about…nothing. His unbreakable rule was “no learning, no hugging.” Popular sitcoms had always been about learning and hugging and “very special episodes.” But Seinfeld created four intensely self-absorbed characters and if we did not exactly care about them, we were captivated by them. Now, he and some of the “Seinfeld” show writers have created an animated movie aimed at children. There is some hugging and learning involved but it is still as close to being about nothing as it can be.


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Animation Comedy Family Issues
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