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Chris Rock a superstar everywhere but in film

During Bill Maher's interview with Chris Rock on "Real Time with Bill Maher" last Friday, the truth hurt but also made you laugh. Rock has some of Richard Pryor's disarming frankness as well as a nimble declamatory style that's all his own. He called health-care reform the equivalent of a whole lot of people getting an airplane "upgrade" -- ticking off the people already sitting in first class. He made the case for a better national healthcare system simply and persuasively: "My father got sick when I was poor, my mother got sick when I was rich; my father is dead, my mother is alive, my mother is fine ."

Maher has been in great form himself lately, but whenever he boxed Rock into a predictable response, Rock jumped right out of the box or knocked it down when it was closing in on him. Maher rightly lauded Rock's documentary "Good Hair" for showing the pain that African-American women endure to straighten their hair. But Rock immediately countered that "the European standard of beauty" was a problem for everyone, including the "fake blondes" in Maher's audience.

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Rock is so gifted and resourceful, you wonder why, "Good Hair" aside, he hasn't made his mark in the movies. Glancing over his recent feature credits you see that misbegotten personal project, "I Think I Love My Wife," a badly thought-out remake of Eric Rohmer's "Chloe in the Afternoon"; "Bad Company," a semi-comic suspense film -- that is, comic only whenever Rock let rip a tirade; and the bland, flimsy political burlesque, "Head of State" (see picture above).

In that 2003 release, shot partly in Baltimore and other parts of Maryland, Rock plays a hands-on Washington, D.C. alderman who becomes a competitive presidential candidate when he starts wearing "ghetto fabulous" fashions and turns campaign spots into rap videos. I wonder how dated it would seem now. (It even looks dated in the photo above.)

Rock has two more films in the can: Friday's premiere, "Death at a Funeral," and "Grown Ups," costarring Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and David Spade. Rock is so original, you wonder why he's always doing remakes. In addition to "I Think I Love My Wife," there was "Down to Earth," the third version of "Here Comes Mr. Jordan." (Warren Beatty had done "Jordan" as "Heaven Can Wait.") And "Death at a Funeral" is based on a British farce of the same name.

Are you looking forward to seeing it? When has Chris Rock made you laugh or applaud at the movies?

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