One candidate for the presidency dies in an accident a couple of weeks before the election. Meanwhile the alderman Mays Gilliam becomes a hero when he rescues a woman and her cat from an old house that would blow up. However his fiancee Kim does not pay his bills and dumps him, and Gilliam loses everything including his fancy car. When Senator Bill Arnot sees the news on television, he plots a scheme with the party advisors Martin Geller and Debra Lassiter to invite Mays to be the party nominee and lose the election for the other candidate, Vice-President Brian Lewis. Four years later, he would be the candidate and would have the chance of winning the election. Mays has a terrible beginning of campaign but when his older brother Mitch Gilliam meets him in Chicago, he advises Mays to be himself. Will he have the chance to be the first African American President of the USA? Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Back in the late 70's and through the early 80's, Richard Pryor made a string of formulaic type movies, the formula being a street-wise black man is unexpectedly placed in a position of great responsibility or privilege for which he is totally unprepared: (Silver Streak, Brewster's Millions, Critical Condition, Bustin Loose). Inevitably, the hero not only succeeds in his newfound role, but excels, all thanks to his streetwise background, which allowed him to confound the numerous white people in these movies who were either thick-headed or cruel mercenaries. This formula, not surprisingly, ran out of gas before Pryor's health started to go downhill, just like the Elvis movie formula did. It was all very unfortunate, because it repackaged Pryor, a true hardcore radical comedian into a middle of the road movie star palatable to a broad based audience. He never reclaimed what he had lost, and neither did Elvis. "Head of State" recycles the same Richard Pryor formula, only updating it to a hip-hop fed generation. Chris Rock plays the Richard Pryor -type character, a Washington DC alderman who catches the attention of Democratic party headquarters as an innovative replacement candidate for the nominee who dies in a plane crash only weeks before the general election. The overall effect is the same watered-down comedy that the RP movies left me with. The backroom cunning and maneuvering is all supposed to look very devious, and Chris Rock turns it all to his advantage, outsmarting the professional politicians at every turn.
The attempted humor in this movie left me cold and annoyed. There were joking references to the assassination of Malcolm X and JonBenet Ramsey that I guess were supposed to make me laugh. They didn't, and nothing, absolutely nothing, in this movie did. The slapping, punching, and assault & battery incidents are continuous and an assault on the senses. Someone has been watching a lot of 3 Stooges. Robin Givens plays a disgruntled ex-girlfriend of the candidate who is repeatedly victimized. In light of her experiences with Mike Tyson, this seems to hit a new low in bad taste. Rock speechifies in his presidential debate scene on the benefits of knocking children in the head when they misbehave, and receives a standing ovation. Not funny.
The problem with a watered-down movie is that it always hedges its bets, flip-flopping between earthy comedy and the serious tones. This movie, which actually has an interesting premise, would have been a lot better if it had gone way over the top, and not pandered to any sense of reality or decorum, like say for example, "Animal House." Put Chris Tucker or Ice-T in the candidate role, with no attempt to be loved by the audience. Bring the 'hood to the White House, and rename it the Black House. Load it with sex, drugs, rock & roll, and FUN!
I couldn't help but feel cynical about the Hollywood establishment's political vendetta associated with this movie. Chris Rock's opponent has an identifiable Texas twang, is personally venemous and slow-witted. Sound familiar? This same establishment will also back liberal governors and senators with expensive haircuts, but has never seriously gotten behind a black presidential candidate. I guess if you produce a movie about it instead of making it happen, that excuses you.
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