MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Top Five’ Is The Funniest Film of 2014

Film: Top Five
Starring: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Chris Rock

Taking filmmaking cues from everyone who has previously captured NYC and relationships with unflinching honesty, Chris Rock has crafted one hell of a comedic feature with Top Five. It’s a story about love, both for others and yourself, as well as a satirical take on our society that will leave you in stitches for days.

Andre Allen (Rock) was once an unstoppable force in the world of stand-up comedy, but after crossing over into film with an extremely successful series of mainstream comedies featuring Allen as a talking bear things began to change. His love affair with being funny was starting to fizzle, and try as he might he could no longer muster the drive to get on stage for the sole purpose of making people laugh. Instead, Allen wanted to be taken seriously, and he set to making this point by creating a film about a Haitian uprising that left tens of thousands of white men dead. The only problem is, no one wants to see it.

On the day we meet Allen he’s dealing with the fact his movie is about to open to almost no fanfare, as well as the stress from his fast-approaching wedding to a reality TV superstar. His nerves are shot and, to make matters worse, he’s being forced to spend the day with a profile writer for the New York Times (Rosario Dawson), whose film critic just slammed Allen’s latest picture. Together the two explore New York, including a stop by Allen’s old stomping grounds, and engage with various members of the media, all while the report tries to learn about the man behind the headlines.

There are elements to the plot of Top Five that play out just as you would imagine, like the moment when sparks begin to fly between the two main characters, but it’s the way their together day unfolds that will keep audiences entertained throughout. This is thanks in part to an absolutely fantastic supporting cast, which features everyone from Tracy Morgan to Jerry Seinfeld, but it’s also owed to Rock’s nonstop funny script. His writing is both topical and surprisingly introspective, touching on what drives a person to be funny and what it means to be truly happy, as well as the way white people will use the election of president Obama to claim they’re not racist (until the president makes a mistake). There are also four sequences when someone is asked to deliver their Top Five rappers of all time, which almost always results in giggles and callbacks to the hip-hop hits of yesteryear.

The one place Top Five falters is in its direction, which was also handled by Chris Rock. Though the film never looks altogether horrible, the way it is shot never feels all that compelling either. It lacks the passion so easily found in the writing and performances, which takes a bit of the magic out of the entire affair. Not enough to ruin the film by any measure, but diehard fans of cinema will no doubt notice several awkward transitions and lackluster shots. Being that this is Rock’s first time directing comedy, this is all understandable, but that does not take away from the fact things might have felt a bit more enthralling with someone else behind the lens.

Those minor grievances aside, Top Five is without a doubt the funniest film of 2014. Rock has sat at the highest echelon of comedy for close to two decades at this point, and with this feature he proves there is still years of funny ahead. Perhaps more importantly, he’s also showcased his ability to capture authentic human emotions in a unique way that allows his audience to better understand the way he perceives the world. That, in my mind, is the best accomplishment an artist can hope to achieve.


Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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