I honestly didn’t know that Top Five was a film that existed until about a few months ago. I read in the trades that a film written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock had sold to Paramount Pictures for 12 million dollars, and that nearly everyone who had seen the film thought that it was brilliant. I haven’t heard a bad thing about Top Five, which struck my interest greatly. I’ve always been a big fan of Chris Rock as a stand up, but the films that he had made in years past had been pretty lame. It was nice to know that Rock had finally made a film that many had said is on par with his best stand up work. And it also doesn’t hurt that Rock said on the Daily Show last night that Top Five is the most Korean friendly film of the holidays, so I felt very safe going into the film knowing that (if you don’t know what I’m referencing, you’ve been living under a rock all week. Damn Sony). So I went to the theatre at noon to see Top Five, and here’s my review.
Top Five tells the story of Andre Allen, a fictitious version of Chris Rock, whose played by the comedian. Allen is a legendary stand up comedian who left the stage to become a movie star, and made millions of dollars from a franchise called Hammy. He’s about to get married on reality television to a reality star played by Gabrielle Union, and he has a film opening that very weekend where he tries to prove to the world that he’s more than just a comedic actor. The entire film takes place in one day, with Allen being interviewed by a Chelsea, a reporter for the New York Times and is played by Rosario Dawson. Throughout the day, Allen and Chelsea talk, mostly about Andre’s life and hers as well, as you get more insight into what Andre has done in order to get into the position that he’s currently in right now.
As I mentioned before, Rock writes and directs the film, having previously Head of State and I Think I Love My Wife (both films are not very good). But I’ll just cut the crap and say that every critic that I’ve read that’s loved this film is correct. Top Five is a brilliant and funny film, and one of the very best of the year. Chris Rock has finally taken all the bits that made his stand up so unique and fresh and finally compiled it into this smart and incredibly charming film, which is part romantic comedy and part showbiz film. It also doesn’t hurt that Rock is able to enlist a lot of talent on screen with this film, with cameos ranging from Cedric the Entertainer, Tracy Morgan, J.B. Smoove, Opie and Anthony (which is kind of weird since Anthony got fired from the show) and many many more. Chris Rock is also hilarious and heartfelt in the role of a recovering alcoholic who is trying to keep everything afloat in this very long and stressful day. Rosario Dawson also gives what may be her best performance yet as this New York Times reporter, and J.B. Smoove is hilarious as usual as Andre’s bodyguard.
What I also really liked about the film is that Rock has turned into a Woody Allen type with this film. Sure, it may have to do that he is a stand up comedian and the film takes place in New York, but there are several scenes in the film with Rock and Dawson walking around New York, talking about their problems and other issues, like Allen’s wedding and his fading screen presence. It’s funny and often very touching and sincere. Their are also flashbacks into Rock’s personal life, where he discusses his drug and alcohol addictions in the past. There’s a scene that takes place in Houston that’s quite memorable, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that. What I really loved about the film is that it never feels long or drags on. You do feel like you’ve been through a lot in this one day with these two characters, but it never feels boring. In a way, Chris Rock also takes a page from Richard Linklater, as there are scenes between Rock and Dawson that are very similar to Linklater’s Before trilogy.
To sum it all up, Top Five is the funniest film of 2014, and I doubt I won’t see anything as funny or witty like Top Five for quite some time (there was an upcoming comedy that I was looking forward, but some folks didn’t want me or the rest of the world to see it. And yes, I won’t ignore the giant elephant in the room for quite some time now). Chris Rock has never been better, both on stage and on film, and hopefully Rock will continue to make films as good if not better than Top Five. And since we have a couple more days left in the year, I will try to get as many films reviewed as humanly possible (except one because the North Koreans got their feelings hurt about it).