Granger on Movies: 'Top Five'
Chris Rock offers a glimpse of life in the celebrity bubble, playing comedian-turned-actor Andre Allen, who agrees to a day-long interview with a New York Times journalist, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson).
Stand-up comic Allen found fame and fortune starring in a trilogy of dumb "Hammy the Bear" movies in which he played the ursine partner of a human policeman.
A recovering alcoholic trying to stay sober, he's embarked on two mid-life endeavors. Determined to be recognized as a serious artist, he's opening a serious, historical drama "Uprize!" about a 1791 Haitian slave rebellion (which the Times has already panned) and he's also celebrating his upcoming wedding to beautiful Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), a shallow reality-TV star.
As Andre and Chelsea walk-and-talk, they learn a great deal about each other, particularly when they encounter his dad (Ben Vereen) in the neighborhood where he grew up. That's punctuated by hilarious cameos from Kevin Hart, JB Smoove, Tracy Morgan, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld and Cedric the Entertainer.
As writer-director, Chris Rock's characters are grounded in reality and his revelatory concept is ambitious, filled with pop-culture references and observations about a black man in a predominantly white business. To his credit, it's far better than Rock's two previous helming projects: "Head of State" and "I Think I Love My Wife."
Obviously influenced by Woody Allen, there are suitable nods to "Annie Hall" and "Stardust Memories." Nevertheless, the humor remains superficially sketch-like, including the rankings of the all-time greatest hip-hop artists that inspired the film's title.
In a recent interview, Rock observed, "I don't think the world expected things to change overnight because Obama got elected president. Of course, it's changed, though; it's just changed with kids." Today, African-American youngsters believe they can be who they want to be, even president.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Top Five" is a raunchy, savvy 7, revealing a social satirist adroitly balancing bawdy abrasiveness with the awareness of a black man blindsided by his own success.