Director, Writer, and Star... Chris Rock came out swinging in 2014 with his release, Top Five.
This is the story of Andre Allen (Rock), a famous comedian who's essentially sold out. He's marrying a reality tv star, and his latest movie is a mad attempt at trying to be something he's not. So when he lands in New York to do publicity, it's not exactly a surprise that everyone's asking about the wedding instead... Everyone except the journalist the New York Times has sent to do an exclusive, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). This is a flick about being yourself and knowing what you actually want out of life. And it's pretty cool.
What's really exciting about Top Five is Rock manages to find a way to pull an actual moral out of his comedy. This seems to be a rarer and rarer trend these days, but the film manages to follow a very direct line, point by point making the viewer aware that there is, in fact, a deeper meaning here. Until, by the end, he is able to subtly lay in the final commentary and the audience is allowed to easily roll into it. And while a few things could have looked or felt better... particularly the fake movie within the movie... the overall flick had more than enough to turn those issue into non-issues.
Rosario Dawson and Chris Rock build an excellent chemistry here as well. They are the life of this picture and they prove to be more than up to the task. Cedric the Entertainer is hilarious and shows a command over his craft that I have not experienced from him as an actor before. And Gabrielle Union manages to be pretty believable as a reality star, though I'm not sure if that should be considered a compliment.
Top Five was honored by the National Board of Review, and I completely understand why. I also tend to think it's rather poignant that this released on the same weekend as the decidedly racist Exodus. And at the end of the day, this is clearly the better of the two films. I really liked Top Five, I think you will too.