Top Five

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Top Five
by Wilson Morales

A reprint from September’s TIFF review

Top Five poster

Often, whenever you have the best talent together in a film where expectations are at a high level, the results go either great or horrible. These is no middle of the road. Go big or bust. Chris Rock has worked his way up from comedian to actor to producer and writer-director. While he’s a great comedian, having done a successful show on HBO followed by a couple of well-received stand-up specials, his films have never generated the same response. It’s probably safe to say that many do not count his directed films, 2003’s Head of State and 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife, as urban classics.

With his latest directed film, ‘Top Five,’ Rock has pulled a 360 turn and put together the best comedy of the year and one of the best comedies in the last few years. Timing is everything in this genre and non-comedian actors in the past have certainly pulled off this feat without having any true funny bones; but when you have a genuine all-star cast of comedians, Rock’s writing stood out where each talent were able to make their mark, no matter how big or small the scene was.

Top Five 2 - Chris Rock

With a cast that includes Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Karlie Redd, Hayley Marie Norman, Ben Vereen, Cedric the Entertainer, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Romany Malco, Hassan Johnson, Jay Pharoah, Leslie Jones, Michael Che, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jerry Seinfeld, Top Five is easily the “Avengers” of comedians where the laugh meter never drops from its highest point.

Rock stars as Andre Allen, a successful comedian and movie star who gained international stardom through his Homey the Bear franchise films. Times have been rough and he’s hoping his latest film “Uprize!,” where he plays a Haitian revolutionary leader, will reinvent his career. While doing his round of press for the film, he reluctantly agrees to allow Chelsea Brown (Dawson), a New York Times reporter follow him around New York City for a Q & A article. Andre and the newspaper don’t have the best relationship as his films are always ripped apart by its film critic, who he’s never met.

Top Five 3 - Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson

Not only his film coming, he’s also engaged and set to marry his fiancé (Gabrielle Union), a reality TV personality who’s using the wedding her career and the show’s ratings. That means that Andre has to put up with decisions she’s making without consulting him. With Chelsea incorporating herself in his life and at times vice-versa, Andre has to find what’s the best thing that will get his spirits up, a new film, a wedding, or a new love?

Right from the start, Rock brings in his “A” game and never drops the ball. As the writer-director, he guides himself as well as others to make their mark without overdoing their scenes. To see Cedric the Entertainer is one hilarious scene can make one walk and be happy with that, but Rock only has him at the start of the film, which leaves us instored for more insane comedy. This is the Chris Rock people adored from his HBO shows where he was in full control of jokes and not trying appease the powers-that-be. His jokes are timely and relatable. As the straight person in the cast, Dawson holds her own amongst this host of comedians. She gets to be sincere with a few jokes that makes one chuckle at times.

Top Five 7 - Gabrielle Union and Chris Rock

What’s interesting is that the title refers to anyone’s five favorite rappers and with the exception of a few scenes, the title has no bearing to the outcome of the film. To have this many comedians, where each has had their own success, takes a lot of credit when they’re able to come in, put in their two cents, make one laugh, and leave. Having been on SNL years ago and still connected with the show, gave Rock the ability to bring folks like Adam Sandler and Jay Pharaoh, while introducing audiences to Leslie Jones and Michael Che.

From the beginning to the end, Top Five is a riot. You will laugh, laugh and laugh. Not much more to be said than to bring a box of tissues for you will have tears of laughter.

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