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Movie Reviews

Down To Earth  

My Blue Heaven This New Remake of Warren Beatty's Remake of "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" Certainly Shows Its Exhaustion

Cast: Chris Rock...............Lance Burton
Regina King..............Suntee
Mark Addy................Cisco
Eugene Levy..............Keyes
Frankie Faison...........Whitney
Greg Germann.............Sklar
Chazz Palminteri.........Mr. King
Directed by: Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz Written by: Chris Rock, Lance Crouther, Ali LeRoi, Louis C.K.

Rated PG-13 for language, sexual humor and some drug references.
Down to Earth
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When I first learned that comedian Chris Rock would be starring in a remake of the 1978 film "Heaven Can Wait", I had my suspicions. After screening the movie, those suspicions were confirmed. This is not the right vehicle for Rock.

An edgy and quick-witted talent, Chris Rock is at his best when making serious points via his bitingly funny stand-up. Occupying center stage in an ultra-labored story doesn't take advantage of his keen sharpness.

Rock plays Lance Barton, an aspiring stand-up comic whose dream is to knock 'em dead at the Apollo Theatre's final performance. Before he has the chance, an accident has resulted in his ascent into heaven. However, a mistake has been made as an overzealous angel named Keyes (Eugene Levy) has taken Lance before the actual outcome of the accident. As a result, he must return to earth using someone else's body. With the help of Mr. King (Chazz Palminteri), heaven's second-in-command, Lance takes the body of recently murdered billionnaire Charles Wellington. Occupying a sixty year old rich white guy now makes the completion of his dream a rather daunting task.

Generally known for cutting loose, Rock seems awfully boxed-in here. The screenplay by Rock, Lance Crouther, Ali LeRoi, and Louis C.K. stays a little too close to the outlines of its predecessor resulting in the comedian's inability to breathe life into an all-too-familiar plot. The remainder of the cast seem as tired as the premise itself, playing their roles as though reading lines of dialogue from a teleprompter.

The film was directed by Chris and Paul Weitz, whose "American Pie" was a surprise box-office hit, injecting a routine comic premise with some outrageous bits of humor in a manner similar to the Farrelly brothers. Here, they seem more content in keeping the story familiar instead of venturing outside the plot similarities to explore the outer facets of humorous possibility. The movie does have a little fun with the idea of watching an old white man perform stand-up at a primarily African-American nightclub and his apparent newfound affection for hip-hop music, yet moments like those aren't developed enough for full comic potential.

When doing stand-up comedy, Chris Rock displays his comic prowess while simultaneously conveying an undertone of urgency and importance. I get the feeling he has a great deal to say. For that to translate to the big screen, he cannot restrict himself by squeezing into a persona that puts a limit on his abilities. Strangely, the premise of "Down to Earth" is its own case in point.

Copyright 2001 Michael Brendan McLarney Critically Ill

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