Written by Matt Kelly
Superstar comedian Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is making his first attempt at a serious motion picture but on the eve of its release bad reviews, wedding complications, and his alcoholism threaten to ruin everything.
Top Five is a boring Birdman. It might as well be the spiritual sequel to Funny People. Think about it like an hour and a half long episode of Entourage where everyone is sad.
Just to be clear, I didn’t like this movie. Watching Chris Rock in Top Five is like watching Michael Jordan play baseball. You assume he’s having fun, so you’re not mad or anything. You’re just disappointed that he isn’t flying through the air and dunking like he’s supposed to.
It doesn’t help either that Top Five is a parody of itself. In the film, Allen is a stand-up comic who is tired of the fame that comes with being a famous comedian, so he makes a serious movie that people don’t really like. By the end of the movie, Allen learns that he should stick to stand-up because that is what really makes everyone, including himself, happy. You would be hard pressed this weekend to turn on Comedy Central and not see some classic Chris Rock standup. Whether it’s Bigger and Blacker or Kill the Messenger, it’s gonna catch up to you. I’m having a hard time writing this review because I am watching Bring the Pain right now and all I can think is “Man, I wish I had just watched this instead.” And to be fair, there are two minutes of Chris Rock standup in Top Five and they are, without a doubt, the funniest parts of the movie. I just wish I could say the same about the other 100 minutes.
As an actor Chris Rock is pretty solid. When the film starts you can’t stand Allen, and by the end of the movie you really do empathize with him. Chris Rock deserves all of the credit for that. I would also chalk this up as a success for Rock just based on how much work directing this many A-List actors must have been. He really seems to have a talent for getting fun and interesting performances out of everyone. It’s the writer part when he loses it. The story is pretty disjointed. Parts, usually flashbacks, flow really well. Other parts, especially longer conversations, move too slowly and feel like a student film. Some things could have been handled with more grace. When your big symbol has to be explained over the course of a three minute elevator ride, it’s not a symbol. It’s just annoying. Also, a lot of the big surprises aren’t all that surprising. It isn’t a huge deal, but if they were done differently they could have added a lot to the story.
Most of the supporting characters are fun. Cedric the Entertainer shows up for all of five minutes and those five are great. JB Smoove also pops in and does what he’s good at every couple of scenes. There are some famous people cameo-ing as themselves which really never gets old. How many movies are going to feature Jerry Seinfeld at a strip club? Very few. Like zero. Kevin Hart is also in the movie for about as long as he’s in the trailer. There is a magically uncomfortable moment where Hart, Andre Allen’s manager, complains about not wanting to sound bad in his private emails which echoes his recent issues with the Sony hack.
Let’s talk about that title; Top Five. It stinks It has very little significance throughout the film besides just being a topic of casual conversation. Andre and his friends make Top Five lists of rappers and it comes back around late in the film but it really isn’t what the movie is about and it seems like a pretty hard title to own. If Chris Rock is reading this (and if the movie is any indication, he is), I would recommend naming the movie something different. You could use the titles of either of Andre’s fictional movies making it either Uprize or Hammy 4. You could also follow the Cinderella storyline that Rosario Dawson’s character creates, although I have a feeling that might send the wrong message. If I were you, I would probably name the movie after a song that shows up late in the picture. I don’t want to give it away but the title to that song would make a way better title than Top Five.
I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea either. There were plenty of people in the theater who LOVED this movie. In fact, there were multiple moments where people were clapping and cheering on Andre Allen, especially during the scenes with the Allen’s bride to be, the Kardashian-esque Gabrielle Union. But even though they didn’t hate it, I can’t help but believe the people who liked this movie would have loved plain old Chris Rock stand up more.
Matthew Nando Kelly is a staff writer for Pop-Break. Aside from Chris Rock nostalgia, he writes about television, film, music, and video games. Matthew also has a podcast called Mad Bracket Status where he discusses pop culture related brackets with fellow Pop-Break writer DJ Chapman. He loves U2, cats, and the New Orleans Saints. He can also occasionally be found writing lists on Topless Robot and his twitter handle is @NationofNando