Chris Rock writes, directs, and stars in this dramedy about a comedian, who wants to be taken more seriously. Andre Allen (Rock) is considered the funniest man in American, whose claim to fame was a trilogy of Hammy the Bear buddy cop films, in which Allen performed in a bear costume. No longer wanting to be typecast as Hammy, Allen stars in the serious art film Uprize, about the Haitian revolution. While promoting Uprize and preparing for his (live on TV) wedding to reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), Allen is interviewed by New York Times journalist Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson).
Top Five is the third film to be directed by Chris Rock, following 2003’s Head of State and 2007’s I Think I Love My Life. While I haven’t seen the other two films, I think that it’s safe to say that Top Five is a much different type of film. The film is obviously a reflection somewhat on Chris Rock’s own career, as well as the public perception of comedians. Andre Allen is a funny man, who does not want to be funny anymore. The problem is, no matter how hard he tries to be a serious actor, everyone will always equate him with the character of Hammy the Bear.
The best way that I can describe Top Five is that it is a mix of Judd Apatow’s Funny People and Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. The latter comparison comes from how the bulk of the film consists of Andre Allen’s interview with Chelsea Brown, with many scenes being nothing but them walking around and talking. The film also features a subplot involving Andre Allen’s upcoming wedding with his fiancé Erica Long, which works a commentary of the heavily manufactured life of reality TV stars. Every time Erica appears on screen, the BRAVO logo appears in the corner, signifying that she is playing up every aspect of her relationship with Andre for the cameras. She even says at one point that “if it’s not on camera, it didn’t happen.”
While Top Five is a movie that allows Chris Rock to show off his dramatic side, the film also features instances of very broad humour. There are a few scenes in the film of an over-the-top sexual nature, which may either come off as absolutely hilarious or completely shocking, depending on the viewer’s sense of humour. I for one was not too crazy about such a scene, featuring an extended cameo by Cedric the Entertainer, especially since it was presented as a flashback, which didn’t really fit with the tone of the rest of the film. Speaking of cameos, Top Five is full of them, featuring appearances from the likes of Kevin Hart and Tracy Morgan. I would like to keep some of the cameos in the film a secret, since it’s a joy when certain individuals show up.
It can be safe to say that Top Five can go down as one of the better things that Chris Rock has done on screen. It is very easy for a comedian to be typecast and always be expected to be funny all the time. Top Five turns out to be a pretty decent self-reflexive look at a comedian at the crossroads of his life and career.8 | LIKED IT