|Rating:Rated PG-13 for rampant stupidity
Starring: Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dylan Baker, Tracy Morgan
Directed By: Chris Rock
Chris Rock is a funny man. His stand up comedy is funny. His TV appearances are funny. His supporting roles in movies are funny. Unfortunately, his starring roles usually are not funny. With the possible exception of Down to Earth, which was more of a quasi-success due to a fun premise and supporting cast, his attempts at headlining have fallen short of funny. Now he tries directing his first film, Head of State, and he fails miserably.
Head of State is a film about Mays Gilliam (Rock), a simple man whom thinks he can help people. After the death of a presidential candidate, the party picks Gilliam, who they know is destined to lose, as their candidate for the presidency. The election is weeks away, and the party just wants to make itself look good by backing a black candidate. Of course this doesn’t work, as we’ve seen in countless other movies with the same formula. It plays strangely like a sports movie, with a dash of the brilliant Primary Colors (Only in plot, not in quality!). In short, you know what happens from the premise.
Rock tries valiantly to be funny, witty, and charming throughout the film, but never really succeeds in creating a character. It’s too similar to the character he’s played in other films, especially Down to Earth, which was his last comedic lead before this. His direction is standard and uninspired. It’s sufficient for a comedy, but that doesn’t matter due to the lack of humor, mostly due to a poor script which Rock co-wrote.
There are some small hints of inspiration. Bernie Mac gets some great play in the last half-hour of the film, and once he shows up for the second time the film becomes slightly entertaining for the first time. Unfortunately an hour passed before this moment. Dylan Baker, a wonderful dramatic support (Changing Lanes, Road to Perdition), is well cast as Rock’s political advisor. But of course, he’s not there to provide laughs, which is what the film needed. Some laughs come from the brilliant Tracy Morgan (better known as SNL’s “The Other Black Guy”) as a thug who sells stolen meat at discounts (a hilarious premise for a character that never gets tapped), but his moments are few and far between. Also worth seeing is Stephanie March as Rock’s “Special Campaign Assistant”. She’s not funny, but is hot. The funniest moment of the film (Which is not saying much) occurs when Rock asks Baker’s character what her job actually is.
In the end, Head of State wants to be a comedy, but fails to be funny. I may have laughed twice in the first hour, and by the time the laughs pick up in the last half-hour it’s too late and too bogged down in attempts at seriousness. This movie wasn’t funny, wasn’t dramatic, and didn’t cover any of the issues you would expect from a political comedy. All it did was use every stereotype it could (If you’re Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, Californian, Texan, Tennesseean, Chicagoan, New Yorkean, or from D.C. you might be offended by the blatant stereotypes) to try and be funny. It didn’t even try hard. If you really like Rock, rent Down to Earth and skip Head of State. You’ll want that hour and a half someday.