I really don’t know what to say about this film. It was that perplexing for me. The first half it felt almost like a frenetic Chris Rock stand-up show then the second half involved much more depth to it. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-esque. In the spirit of the bi-polar nature of the film I give the first half of the film a thumbs down and the second half a thumbs up. If you can make it through the schlock at the beginning you will be rewarded.
Let’s not kid ourselves, most will pick up, purchase or stream this film because they are fans of Chris Rock. And that is not a bad reason to do so as he definitely is front and center in the film. Chris Rock has never shied away from controversial subjects. I applaud him for not playing it safe and diving headfirst in. With Top Five, a film he stars in, directed and wrote, he delves into the topics of show business, politics, rap, and what it means to be black today in the United States. That is quite a load to take on in one film.
Within the entertainment industry transitioning from a very popular comedian to a serious actor is not an easy one to make. Star stand-up comedian Andre Allen (Chris Rock – Madagascar, Grown Ups 2) is attempting just that. At the same time that he is getting married to reality show star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union – Bring It On, Bad Boys II) and his first “serious” film is being released, so he is doing all the press related to that the New York Times has asked to do an in-depth interview with him. After initially hesitating, Andre agrees and meets with journalist Chelsea Brown. They discover that they are both recovering alcoholics and a bond is formed.
Chelsea follows Andre around pretty much everywhere he goes, whether it is an interview or back to his old neighbourhood to give his father (Ben Vereen – All That Jazz, Funny Lady) and then sit down with his old friends, Vanessa (Sherri Shepherd – Precious, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa), Fred (Tracy Morgan – from television’s 30 Rock) and Lisa (Leslie Jones – from television’s Saturday Night Live). As time goes on they forge a friendship and Chelsea ends up forcing Andre into making some decisions about his life.
Scattered is the best way to describe the opening half of the film. It is a little bit everywhere, yet going nowhere. Finally the viewer is rewarded in the last half when we see a more substantial film about a man who gained fame and fortune largely because of his alcoholism and how getting sober has been bad for his career. Basically instead of a meandering stand-up comedy set we get a character study. The look into darker side of the entertainment industry and how hard it is on the people involved is a very satisfying watch.
A highlight of the film was the ongoing banter between Rock and co-star Rosario Dawson. They exhibit a nice chemistry and Rosario Dawson holds her own against the fast-talking comedian. Throughout the film they form a believable and very watchable relationship.
-Andre Allen Stand-Up Outtakes