Review: Chris Rock Is In His Prime In “Top Five”

I’ll admit, when I was in elementary school, I was a class clown. I was always quick to crack a joke, make a pun, and just overall lighten any mood. I was never taken seriously, and as a child, I was fine with that. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I wanted to be taken seriously, but the title stuck. Everything I said was thought to be a joke, and even the serious things were thought to be jokes; unfunny ones at that. Top Five is all about the comedy and tragedy behind trying to become something more than what people think you should be.

Recovering alcoholic and stand-up comedian/film star Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is trying to break out into different genres, unsuccessfully. Being critically panned for his high grossing, low brow costumed bear films, he has aspirations of doing something more serious. Like say, a film about a Haitian uprising. On the eve of his film’s release, his bachelor party and his wedding to reality star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union, he agrees to have a writer from the New York Times shadow him for a day. Writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) is much more than she appears to be, and suspects that Andre Allen is also, as she prepares to find out more about his life, his past and hopefully, his future.

This isn’t Chris Rock’s first attempt at the writer/director/actor trifecta, but this is the first time he was a resounding success. His humor has always been pretty much on point, but in “Top Five” we are given it in controlled doses. This helps bring his point home because at its core, this film is about control. It’s seen not only in his nimble use of humor in a sentimental narrative, but also in the story of overcoming alcoholism. The feelings don’t come off as false or forced, and that is because they come from a place of truth and genuineness. Less than a decade ago, Rock lost his brother to alcoholism, and you can feel his remorse in Top Five as we witness a story that might ring a little truer to Rock’s life than we have any right knowing about.

There also romantic aspects mingled with social commentary about celebrities and public perception vs. real life. Rosario Dawson and Gabrielle Union personify this concept perfectly as they each play Rock’s love interest. They weren’t the only stand out cast members, but if I listed every comedian and celebrity cameo in the film, you would already by on your way theater to see the movie rather than finish reading this. This film was co-produced by Kanye West and Jay-Z, so naturally their tracks makes up the film’s soundtrack, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I laughed, I let out a sympathetic “Awwwww”, and I cried (because I laughed so hard). Top Five is a hybrid, not without its flaws. This clearly self-referential “dra-medy” is just the right mixture of Chris Rock’s best of comedy, and thoughtful, emotional depth to show us that he is much more than just a stand-up comic proficient in situational humor and quippy one-liners. This film will take a well-deserved spot in your “Best Comedies of 2014” lists. Might even be in your Top 5.

RATING: ★★★★★★★★(8/10 stars)

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