Rock the vote

"God bless America, and no place else!"

That's a tagline of the unctuous vice president running against Chris Rock in "Head of State," and it gets his audiences cheering every time.

Only a little of Mr. Rock's new comedy reaches that level of savvy satire, but even a few such moments are enough to raise it above other current vehicles for African-American stars: Queen Latifah's boorish "Bringing Down the House" and Cuba Gooding Jr.'s atrocious "Boat Trip."

Rock plays a black alderman asked to run for president by an underhanded politico who really wants him to lose. You can guess the rest - he speaks his mind, charms the average citizen, and sweeps in from behind.

But hey, you go to a Chris Rock film to check out his streetwise moves, not to assess his narrative cleverness. This one has more street smarts per shot than most entire films I've seen lately. There's even a touch of boldness in the screenplay by Rock and Ali LeRoi. It dares to joke about high-school gun freaks and war-obsessed politicians being cut from the same violent cloth. And its lampoons of election commercials are priceless.

I'd like "Head of State" better if it had less cartoonish violence, and if its gags weren't so predictable. Rock is in fine comic form, though, and his directing debut shows real promise.

He has my vote. Chris Rock 4 President!

Rated PG-13 for vulgarity and violence.

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