Top Five Blu-ray Review
In 2007, Chris Rock starred in, wrote and directed the comedy I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE and although it wasn’t well received by critics, it remains a film I enjoy due to Chris Rock’s insights into marriage and people in general, despite some technical shortcomings. It showed a lot of promise for Chris Rock as a filmmaker, but it took seven years to see his follow up, TOP FIVE. TOP FIVE is a much more polished film and continues to show Rock growing as a storyteller and as a filmmaker. It has one of the best scripts of the year and with a couple of tweaks, it could have been one of the best movies of the year.
Chris Rock stars as Andre Allen, a former standup comedian that has shot to superstardom playing Hammy the Bear in a series of movies. But he’s trying to branch out from the mindless comedy that made him famous and is starring in a drama about the Haitian slave revolution. He’s also set to be married to a famous reality TV star, which he can’t figure out if that’s hurting or helping his career. We follow Andre over the course of a day while he’s being interviewed by New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Dawson), who is trying to get to the “real” Andre Allen.
When TOP FIVE works, it’s because of the great dialogue Chris Rock wrote for his characters. It’s pretty much what I imagine hanging out with Chris Rock would be like; plenty of funny observations and quick jabs, but also some interesting insights into things you normally wouldn’t consider. But watching Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson walk around New York City talking about life isn’t quite enough to carry the movie and where TOP FIVE struggles is with the deeper themes that are always underneath, but never fully explored. For example, Andre says he doesn’t want to be a comedian anymore and we all think/assume it’s because he’s trying to get sober, but that concept wasn’t fully vetted out. He raises some good questions that musicians typically ask, like “can I be creative and be sober at the same time”. I would have liked to see that theme more prevalent in the film.
But TOP FIVE is still one of the better movies of the year, again thanks to the great script. It’s not really laugh out loud funny, but it has plenty of chuckles and laughs throughout. The funniest scene involved two great cameos at the bachelor party (I won’t reveal for fear of ruining the surprise) and someone needs to get those three guys in a movie together, doing exactly what they were doing in TOP FIVE. Aside from the comedy, there’s a nice romantic element of the film that is more of a subplot, but it’s handled well and avoids being a distraction.
Special notice should be given to Gabrielle Union, who had one of the hardest lines in the movie during a phone call. It was a heartfelt scene and not only was it delivered well, but it was an interesting peek into the life of a reality TV star. It’s hard to pull a scene like that off in the middle of a comedy, but it worked well and added another element to a good film.
TOP FIVE should wow you with the great dialogue, even if it underwhelms with the unexplored themes. I’ve always been a fan of Chris Rock and this is definitely one of his crowning achievements. If he makes as big of an improvement from his third film to his fourth film as he did from his second to third, then we’re going to be in for quite a treat the next time he directs, writes and stars in a film.
Video: TOP FIVE looked amazing on Blu-ray.
Audio: The audio was great and one thing that stood out was the fact that everywhere Andre went, someone would yell “Hammy!” at the top of their lungs. So it sounded like you were walking in NYC along with him.
Commentary with Chris Rock and J.B. Smoove: Surprisingly, this isn’t a funny commentary track. Rock and Smoove are mostly serious and spend most of the time going over things you’d expect from a director. Rock offers some nice insights and the two of them keep the track rolling.
It’s Never Just a Movie: Chris Rock and Top Five (20:06): The cast and crew talk about the parallels between Andre and Chris Rock and Rock talks about his start and how his experiences made it into the movie.
The Making of Top Five (10:24): This is a typical making of featurette, complete with behind the scenes footage and interviews.
Top Five Andre Allen Standup Outtakes (6:21): Towards the end of the film, we get some Andre Allen standup footage. These are the jokes that didn’t make the final cut.
Top Five Moments You Didn’t See in the Film (4:18): More deleted footage from the film.
Deleted Scenes (3:29): These are some deleted scenes and I assume these are separated from the above two features because they’re not funny and the others are.