Chris Rock’s latest production, Top Five, is without a shadow of a doubt a career highlight for the comic performer, a self-referential display that is sure to be one of the funniest films released this year. Rock plays Andre Allen, an actor best known for his comedies, including the popular ‘Hammy’ franchise, where he plays a bear cop fighting crime. His latest film is one about a Haitain slave rebellion, but people refuse to take him seriously – particularly given the same weekend of the film’s release is also that of his wedding to reality TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) – which she is adamant be televised.
So, and despite having a few enemies at the paper following a string of bad reviews, he allows the New York Times’ reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) to follow him around all day, and allow him to show the real him, offering a candid exploration into his life and his career aspirations. In many regards, there are shades of Woody Allen to this picture – in that we’re dealing with a romantically muddled, creatively inclined individual living in New York City.
But that’s not all; there’s an intriguing, compatible, and ultimately triumphant collaboration of cultures, and while we explore black society through the eyes of our protagonist who delves into his family life and upbringing, the influences from Jewish comedians are rife – and perhaps the fact the protagonist even shares the same surname as the aforementioned filmmaker, could allude to the fact that Rock is evidently aware of this fact. Meanwhile, there are also cameos for Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, while J.B. Smoove, who plays Andre Allen’s best friend ands bodyguard, is a star of the Larry David sitcom Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Smoove is one of several hilarious supporting roles, which also include the likes of Cedric the Entertainer’s eccentric charlatan Jazzy Dee, or Tracy Morgan as family member Fred or even a rare sighting of rapper DMX – each offering a plethora of laughs between them. It’s quite remarkable really, as so many comedies these days struggle to even have one funny character, and when they do, that very role is the sole bearer of the comic moments. In Top Five, there are plenty of laughs coming from each and every corner. Rock shines in the leading role too, turning in a subtle, nuanced display that brings a certain depth to the role at hand. It’s a meta turn, and evidently shades of himself can be found in Andre Allen – and while that inevitably results in self-indulgence, the comedian is on hand to consistently knock himself down a few pegs when required.
Top Five moves seamlessly between a variety of genres, and triumphs in each and every one. It’s hilarious when vying to be, poignant, profound, and even romantic, as the core romance is touching and easy to invest in and root for. To succeed on so many levels is of great commendation to Rock, who will have you laughing all the way home.