Top Five depicts what it takes to be an African-American entertainer.
Funnyman Chris Rock has earned much praise as a stand-up comedian, but his talent hasn’t always translated into big screen success. With his latest film, the actor brings his standup smarts to celluloid, creating an amusing flick that will probably rank in the top five of his movie career.
Top Five tells the story of actor Andre Allen, a former standup comedian who is the title star of an action-comedy film Hammy the Bear. Tired of playing a cop in a bear suit and longing to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor, Allen chooses to star in Uprize, a movie about the slave rebellion in Haiti. On the day of the film’s release, he finds himself being shadowed by entertainment reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) for a profile, while also preparing for his imminent wedding with reality TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union). Resolves are tested and secrets are spilled as the interview proceeds. The characters find out more about each other and, in turn, discover more about themselves.
How things unfold is quite predictable, but while the premise may be simple, it still offers the perfect platform for Rock to showcase his wit. Top Five (which gets its title from Andre’s habit of asking people to name their favourite rappers) functions as a showbiz satire that comments on everything from racism and addiction to fame and relationships. But the freewheeling style also makes the proceedings seem haphazard.
A host of cameo appearances by famous faces pop up throughout the film; some of them seem shoehorned, but they are mostly quite amusing. Rock’s performance is genial and Dawson helps carry the film with her affable, easygoing turn, which makes the proceedings more engaging.
For the most part, Rock manages to keep viewers amused with his wry observations. At its best, Top Five is genuinely funny and effortlessly charming. The humour, however, is definitely not for everyone. Some of the language and crude jokes could offend viewers; plus, its raunchiness detracts from the substance and is likely to make some moviegoers cringe. If the focus had been on making the film smarter instead of smuttier, the project could have probably been more enjoyable.
On the whole, Top Five may have its flaws, but it is still one of Rock’s most entertaining outings. Despite its untidy execution and conventional resolution, the film offers some sharp commentary and also manages to charm its audience by delivering a fair share of laughs.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, March 1st, 2015.