“Top Five” Review | Worth the Hype

Chris Rock isn’t the greatest actor in the world (see Pootie Tang), but it turns out he’s a pretty good writer and director.  Really good, actually.  Top Five is the comedy about an actor and former stand-up comic named Andre Allen (Chris Rock) that was once known as the funniest man in America for his roles in action comedies, but has now hit rock bottom and is trying to re-ignite his career with more serious movies.  The movie takes place over the course of one day with Andre being interviewed by a reporter (Rosario Dawson) on his movie’s opening day, and scheduled to get married the next day to a reality star (Gabrielle Union).  Top Five looks a lot like a romantic comedy about an unexpected love triangle.  It’s surprisingly more … it’s a hilarious story about success and failure, and how people treat you when you experience both.


*Very mild spoiler warning* Andre Allen is a recovering-alcoholic that ‘s returning from rock bottom.  Instead of returning to comedy and doing another installment of his “Hammy the Bear” franchise, he rolls the dice by playing a Haitian slave that led the largest uprising in the western hemisphere.  While promoting the movie on its opening day, he’s stuck doing an interview with Chelsea, a New York Times film critic that he doesn’t trust, but reluctantly lets her shadow him throughout the day.  Flashbacks help tell the story of Andre’s rise to fame and fall from glory, as he also reconnects with his old ‘hood and hits promotional events throughout the city.  On top of everything, his fiancee Erica (Gabrielle Union) is finishing up wedding planning — but with her reality network about the wedding more than her future husband.  **End of spoilers**

The story may not seem like much, but Chris doesn’t waste words or scenes.  There’s plenty of jokes, but most of the cast nails their roles.  Rosario Dawson is excellent, the supporting cast (JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union,  Cedric the Entertainer and others) pull their weight, and the guest stars (Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Tracy Morgan, & Ben Vereen to name a few) actually get to contribute to the story in great ways.  Chris Rock hasn’t become a better actor … his range of emotions still go from happy with a smirk on his face to shocked with a smirk on his face.  But the movie is strong enough without needing much from Chris.

Rock very thoroughly explores the difference between love and loyalty, and the little gestures one does 9or doesn’t do that shows how much they really care about someone.  Chris has mined this type of comedy before, with his movie “I Think I’m in Love With My Wife,” as well as his stand-up comedy.  Sadly, Top Five comes out as the news reports that Chris Rock and his wife of 19 years have filed for divorce … so he’s probably been thinking about these themes a great deal.  He treats them as complex issues, with no saints or villains, just a lot of adults making difficult choices.  The movie launched a bidding war when it was screened on the festival circuit, and you should check it out in theaters and find out why.

I can’t end this review without giving my top five:
1. Jay-Z
2. Public Enemy
3. Biggie
4. MC Lyte
5. Eminem

Top Five
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90% with critics, 71% with audiences
IMDB Rating: 7/10
this (grooms)man’s rating: 9/10 … one of my top five movies all year