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Review: Top Five

After directing two disappointing films, no one expected Chris Rock’s Top Five to emerge as what is perhaps the funniest film, or at least the smartest comedy, of the year. Perhaps it was directing two poorly received films and starring in a string of stupid comedies that finally prepared Rock for Top Five, a film which has quite a bit to say about being a black comedian in the comedy industry.

Rock stars as Andre Allen a stand-up comedian and actor who if having a crisis. Andre has decided that he is no longer funny and wants to become a serious actor. Yet, when he finally stars in his passion project, all anyone wants him to do is get back in a bear costume for another “Hammy the Bear” sequel with Luis Guzman. The passion project is called “Uprize!” and depicts the revolution of Haitian slaves. It seems to be a spoof of the kind of films that are winning Oscars these days, yet, when Andre sneaks into to a theatre on opening night, there is barely anyone there. To make matters even more stressful, Andre is only days away from getting married to a reality show star (Gabrille Union). In honor of his film, Andre is set spend the day with New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), who will be writing a profile on him.

The moments spent with Andre and Chelsea roaming the streets of New York feel like something out of a Woody Allen movie or even Linklater’s Before trilogy. Their conversations cover many topics, including comedy and music. The most important parts of their conversation are those that bring on flashbacks. One of funniest flashbacks in the film arises when Chelsea asks Andre, a recovering alcoholic, to describe the moment that he hit rock bottom. Andre describes an uproarious tale featuring Cedric The Entertainer as a club promoter, and the horror that ensues when two prostitutes show up to his hotel room door.

Top Five is one of the most clever and witty comedies that has been released in some time. Rock has used his experience as a stand-up comedian to write excellent dialogue that is sometimes surprisingly thought provoking. The film features a great discussion in which Chelsea attempts to explain the racial subtext behind The Planet of the Apes. While the film never takes itself too seriously, one can’t help but ponder this statement.

While the film is well written and elegantly shot (by Lars Von Trier’s go to cinematographer Manuel Alberto Claro), what audiences will discus most is the film’s celebrity cameos. We won’t spoil any of the uncredited cameos, but the film does feature Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Sherri Shepherd, and JB Smoove in great roles.

If you are looking to have a great laugh, then Top Five will certainly provide. You will also be treated to a charming romance and a great commentary on the modern star system. Top Five is a hilarious film that is sure to rejuvenate Rock’s career. Trust us, you do not want to miss this one.

[star v=4]

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.