Review: “Top Five” Relies On Swearing And Lewd Sex Acts For Humor Instead Of Jokes
Title: Top Five
Director: Chris Rock
Screenwriter: Chris Rock
Principal Cast: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, and Tracy Morgan
As I mentioned in my Horrible Bosses 2 review I have a very specific sense of humor. When it comes to humor I tend to prefer dark comedies or play on words, but I’m also the person that says “that’s what she said” and “phrasing boom!” jokes all the time. However, when I saw the trailer for Top Five I had a bad feeling that this wasn’t going to be a movie that appealed to my sense of humor. There have been plenty of times that a movie has surprised me, though, so I try to go into everything with as open of a mind as possible. Maybe the trailer just showcased all of the “lowest hanging fruit” jokes to try and appeal to that audience?
Top Five is a perfect example what a thirteen year old boy thinks adult humor consists of, which is a lot of swearing and lewd sex acts instead of actual jokes.
Our story follows Andre Allen (Chris Rock), a former comedian who made it big doing some terrible movies, who is now trying to make the move over to serious actor. He has a new movie coming out, but the press seems much more interested in his extremely high profile marriage to reality star Erica (Gabrielle Union) rather than focusing on the movie itself. In order to drum up some positive press, Andre agrees to an interview with Chelsea (Rosario Dawson) from the New York Times. The interview starts out a little rocky, but as Chelsea follows Andre around on his round of press they come to a mutual decision to be more honest with each other.
I would say that a good portion of the parts of this film that are supposed to be funny are in the forms of flashbacks. Andre is a recovering alcoholic so his scenes when he was drinking are supposed to be over the top, but I believe that Top Five passes the line somehow. Chris Rock wrote and directed in this movie, and as someone who did a lot of standup he should know the value of the perfectly timed punchline, but the script often takes the jokes and makes it go on far too long. The scene where we see Andre “hit bottom” was far too long and was gross in ways that I really don’t want to get into.
The movie is also very “meta” in the sense that it takes place in our world only with fictional characters. They refer to current events in the movie, but I have a feeling that the real world setting was really only there as a thinly veiled excuse to have a few celebrity cameos without having to think of actual characters for them to play. There was a potential for the movie to do something interesting with the character dynamic between Andre and Erica, and what it would be like to date someone who is Kim Kardashian in all but name. Top Five doesn’t do much with the concept aside from a fight between the two characters where Erica admits that the reality show is the only thing she has, and has no other talents to fall back on. This was a not so subtle swipe at the reality show stars of the day, but aside from “hey, look, these people have no talent” the movies doesn’t have much else to say about it. Besides, taking a shot at reality television isn’t so much going for the low hanging fruit as it is picking up a fruit that fell off the tree weeks earlier.
The other thing that the movie depends on for comedy, aside from a plethora of sex acts that are supposed to be funny but really aren’t, is swearing. Perhaps it’s because I have the mouth of a sailor and regularly sing bad words with fifty other people at soccer games, but swearing isn’t funny to me. The script also throws around the “N” word like it was a candy, which I have a feeling is going to either offend some people or roll off of their shoulders like it wasn’t a big deal. The first few times a character uses the word four times in a two minute period it’s a little ostentatious, but then it becomes overused and boring just like almost all of the jokes. There were also a few jokes that came across as more than a little mean spirited.
Chris Rock is more or less playing himself, so this isn’t him stretching his acting muscles. However, I have seen some video of his standup and I know he can write better than this. There was the potential for some really interesting ideas, such as type casting and whether or not someone can do the same work while not under the influence of some sort of substance. All of these interesting ideas are either barely commented on or dealt with within a matter of seconds. Rosario Dawson is very pretty to look at but she’s some sort of weird hybrid of a manic pixie dream girl. She takes pictures on the side and has an affinity for a Cinderella type story. It took me five minutes for me to figure out where her arc was going, and the only thing that surprised me about it was the fact that they didn’t actually finish it. Gabrielle Union, again, could be interesting as Erica, but aside from the obvious jokes about reality television they don’t do anything with her. Everyone else in the cast is either a non entity or a cameo.
Top Five might have a few funny moments throughout, but are vastly outnumbered by the moments that aren’t. There are a few interesting things going on in the background, but the movie chooses to focus on swearing, sex, and mean spirited jokes. The only top five list this movie is going to make is “top five worst movies of 2014”.