'Top Five' is ostensibly soul-deep but needs more than smirks and scowls

'Five' is an improvement over other Chris Rock films, but Rock comes across as only a deliverer of lines.

Ali Paige Goldstein/Paramount Pictures/AP
'Top Five' stars Chris Rock.

“Top Five” is being heavily promoted as the Chris Rock movie to end all Chris Rock movies – the first time he has really brought his stand-up smarts to the big screen. While it may be an improvement over his other movie outings (it’s certainly a lot raunchier), I don’t see this film as such a great leap forward. Rock plays Andre Allen, a comedian-turned-movie star who longs to get back to his stand-up roots. Prodded by a confrontational entertainment journalist (Rosario Dawson) doing a profile on him, Andre eventually works his way back to authenticity.

Or so we are meant to believe. The big stand-up set with which he concludes the film isn’t the tell-all laugh-riot it’s meant to be. Rock, who also wrote and directed, may have modeled his film on Richard Pryor’s semiautobiographical “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling,” but, unlike Pryor, Rock doesn’t have a tortuous and conflicted screen presence. He’s not really an actor; he’s a deliverer of lines. This sort of thing may not be a big problem with some comics – Jerry Seinfeld, for example, who shows up in a cameo, is essentially a human joke machine on “Seinfeld” – but for an ostensibly soul-deep movie like this to work, we need more than smirks and scowls. Grade: C+ (Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, crude humor, language throughout and some drug use.)

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