Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars
It’s really been a year for meta commentary in entertainment. Everything from “The Lego Movie” to the bizarre internet phenomenon of “Too Many Cooks” has left viewers scratching their heads or having to turn on their brain when consuming their favorite pop-culture substance. I’m sure someone at some point, will compare “Birdman” to “Top Five” for how it depicts its main character, but I’d be a little offended if someone was to put these two movies at the same level.
“Top Five” is written and directed by Chris Rock, who also stars in the main role, Andre Allen. Sometimes Dre for short. He’s a comedian powerhouse who’s known for his franchise about a bear cop by the name of Hammy. That part of his life is over now, along with a heavy drinking problem. He’s sober and trying to reinvent himself by turning to a serious role, a Haitian rebellion leader in the movie Uprize. Changing from an actor in a bear suit to an angry slave wielding a machete draw some of the biggest laughs for me, but sadly the movie strays from this rich, fruitful tree of humor.
Allen also has to worry about his upcoming television wedding with the reality star sensation Erica Long (Union), promoting Uprize to people who are more interested in asking him if he’s doing another Hammy movie, and doing an interview for Chelsea Brown (Dawson). On his busy day, there are some detours that include a visit to his extended family. There’s also the constant struggle with sobriety. Hidden bottles of liquor, store fronts lined with a rainbow of alcohol, all tempt him. So much is cramped into its short runtime; it feels choppy and rushed at moments. Andre is struggling to find his identity and reclaim his confidence, but not enough time is given to focus on his emotional tussle.
It’s also a movie that’s highly interested in ridiculing critics, reality TV, cellphones, the media circus, and celebrities, but it also has very little to say and simply eases into a predictable storyline. It’s unfortunate that Rock couldn’t take a more ambiguous approach to Andre’s life instead of having to verbally explain everything, sometimes twice, to the audience. Chelsea, through a day of connecting and learning one another’s feelings, becomes the obvious romantic interest as Andre slowly realizes Long is in a relationship for the ratings.
The amount of humor might lead audiences astray from whatever noble point Rock is trying to make about comedy. There’s the sense that under the raging sexual debauchery and hot sauce tampon jokes, there’s something to be said. But its voice is barely heard above the loud squeals of laughter from the audience and the sights of many prominent comedians. There’s a great message to be told about comedy and how art has an amazing power to heal, but I’m afraid Chris Rock couldn’t quite hit the nail on the head.