I am an ardent fan of Chris Rock the stand-up comedian, but I have never been as high on him as an actor. With Top Five, a film that he has written, directed, and starred in, Rock finally made me a fan of Chris Rock the movie star.
Top Five focuses on Andre Allen (Rock), a former stand-up comedian who went on to star in generic and soulless comedy blockbusters—Hammy the Bear 1,2, and 3. After rehab for alcoholism, he wants to make movies that will make critics take him seriously. He’s particularly sore at a critic from the New York Times, so when the paper sends over reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) to interview him, Andre obviously has his guard up. Chelsea is a fan of his and wants to know how he went from being a once-great comedian to a guy who is getting married to a reality star (Gabrielle Union) and having the wedding broadcast on her network. So, the movie follows Andre around for the day as Chelsea tries to figure him out and he tries to figure her out as well.
This is not a typical romantic comedy, but it can definitely be classified as that. Like Rock’s stand-up, it is raunchy, crude, and real. It is also completely hilarious. From elaborate set ups, to inspired cameos—Jerry Seinfeld’s is the best—to just random people yelling, “Hammy!” out to Andre as he walks around New York, Top Five is consistently funny, even when the subject matter turns to more serious things like addiction and trust. There are some lulls here and there, but Rock has populated the film with interesting characters, which makes the less laugh-filled moments remain compelling. The “Top Five” in the title refers to different characters asking each other who their top five musical acts are, generally rap or hip hop artists.
Rock is really great as Andre, but essentially, he’s playing himself, so it’s not much of a stretch. However, he seems much more at ease here than in previous films. Dawson is fantastic as Chelsea and Union brings humanity to a character who is really just a shell of a person. The supporting cast Rock has assembled here is amazing and a who’s who of the comedy field. J.B. Smoove is really great as Silk, Andre’s assistant/bodyguard and Cedric the Entertainer kills is as Jazzy Dee. Adam Sandler shows up with Jerry Seinfeld and in a few minutes, delivers his best comedic work in years. As previously mentioned, Seinfeld will have you in stitches, as will DMX, who makes a late appearance.
You will definitely laugh throughout Top Five, but the film does have some quiet moments for what we call in the biz, “character development.” It is a complete movie and is Chris Rock’s best. Definitely check it out if it’s playing in your area. Oh, and my top five? Well, it’s not hip hop, but: