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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
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
in his newfound role, but excels, all thanks to his streetwise
which allowed him to confound the numerous white people in these movies
were either thick-headed or cruel mercenaries.
This formula, not surprisingly, ran out of gas before Pryor's health
to go downhill, just like the Elvis movie formula did. It was all very
unfortunate, because it repackaged Pryor, a true hardcore radical
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
a hip-hop fed generation. Chris Rock plays the Richard Pryor -type
character, a Washington DC alderman who catches the attention of
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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Head of State has a few funny moments, just not enough to sustain its running time. Mays Gilliam is about to be red-lined out of his job. But after the untimely death of the party frontrunner, Gilliam is plucked from obscurity, and thrust into the limelight as his party's nominee--for President of the United States. The players in Gilliam's life include: Mitch Gilliam, his unsophisticated older brother who becomes his running mate; Kim, his ex-girlfriend who had once dumped him, but who now has a sudden change of heart; Martin Geller, his campaign manager; Lisa Clark, the woman who truly believes in Gilliam; and Debra Lassiter, the woman who doesn't have faith in his candidacy, and is serving as his reluctant adviser. The plot sounds okay and it defiantly has potential since Chris Rock is attached too it. It didn't work out that way though as the film is just not very funny. I used to think Chris Rock was funny in films such as Dogma. Now after films like this one, Bad Company and Down to Earth, I'm start to think he has lost his touch. He is also the director so he could have changed something that he didn't like in the script. Bernie Mac is disappointing in this film as well and he didn't have a lot to work with either. None of the other cast members do much and their talents are wasted with this movie. Head of State isn't insulting it just gets really boring at times. Its actually a pretty short film at just 95 minutes long, though it defiantly feels a lot longer then that. The jokes are old and the film is pretty predictable as well. Its just a silly comedy though so its not worth really hating and taking too serious. Its just disappointing since it could have been so much better. In the end, this is a below average comedy and not really worth watching. Rating 5/10, skip this one.
The real, angry Chris Rock doesn't put in an appearance until the final moments of this political satire (directed and co-written by Rock) but it's not enough to rescue what has come before. Rock's fantasy of being the first African-American to achieve the White House (although he's initially set up to fail by spin doctors Dylan Baker and a surprisingly funny Lynn Whitfield) is somewhat toothless by Rock's own standards. The problem is his altered perception of himself as a film star (as opposed to the established HBO black equivalent of Dennis Miller): he phonily positions himself from the onset as cuddly, concerned for the constituents of the ward he's an alderman for and reasonably ignorant of national issues; he's finally allowed to become self-aware only when his older brother (the always welcome Bernie Mac) intercedes. You keep waiting for Rock to change but when he does, it's first into a playa that comes up with glib quips in response to standard questions. (With barely a mention of foreign policy, they seem a bit stale). Only in the final debate against his opponent (Nick Searcy) does he let loose with some honesty and only then do the jokes carry some weight. Rock, making his directorial debut, opts for the equivalent of a made-for-TV movie with a flat look, very mild gags (there are not nearly enough white fright jokes but there is a fundraiser that turns into a dance party with elderly WASPs doing the electric slide, and opening credits that state Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, George Bush and Hillary Clinton, among others, `are not in this movie') and very little interest in being taken seriously. Warren Beatty covered this turf far more handily in `Bulworth'. With Tamala Jones as his love interest, Robin Givens (cleverly cast as a gold digger) and, unfortunately, only a couple of bits from Tracy Morgan.
Head of State is an incredible satire that had me rolling in the aisle when
I first saw it. I loved this movie and I liked the other movie he starred
in, Down to Earth. Here Chris Rock is Washington D.C. Councilman Mays
Gilliam, a good guy with a real bad streak of luck.
Suddenly the National Party asks him to run for president unexpectedly. Mays turns the race around by asking real serious questions and addressing problems that no other candidate will. Chris Rock's sense of humor is so out there it is hilarious. He doesn't lat anything go, he makes fun of politicians, African-Americans, whites, everyone.
That's why this one works so well. Chris Rock just talks about so much here and he is perfect here. Also excellent is Bernie Mac, who could not be in the movie longer because of scheduling conflicts with his TV show. He is Chris Rock's brother and he should have been in the move longer.
I loved Chris Rock's most repeated line in the movie: Let me hear ya say that ain't right.' Chris Rock really goes after a lot of issues in this movie as far as problems in this country. Here Rock is an excellent hero. He does an excellent job overall and this film is very funny. I think of Chris Rock as a modern day (although not up to the quality) Groucho Marx, a true satirist of films where the film is not supposed to be taken seriously by any stretch of the imagination. That is why I like the film it is so above reality.
Keith David, and Rapper Nate Dogg have small parts in this film as well. The movie just had it together and there were a lot of great moments. I would recommend this to anyone that wants a good laugh. The opening sequence where the credits discuss who is not in the film is hilarious. The pace of this film is very fast and does not let up at any point in the film.
Don't watch this one for the plot just watch it for the comedy. Chris Rock and Bernie Mac do an excellent job in making you laugh. Chris Rock fans will love it as will fans of Bernie Mac, and those that are upset with the political system will love it. This is not for all tastes, but I thought it was funny anyway.
In this film, the Vice President, who's the front-runner candidate for
office in a coming election, often dispenses with below campaign sound
bite at whatever opportunity he gets:
"I have been the Vice President for 8 years. I am a war veteran. And I'm the cousin of Sharon Stone. God bless America...and no place else."
With lines like these, what's not to like about Head of State?
Here's the premise of the film. Both the the Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate of a "losing" party died when their planes crashed into each other (don't ask). With the election just weeks away, the party decided to intentionally look for a "loser" replacement candidate; one who will lose at a pegged percentage (not too much, not too little), and yet is capable of winning some "leverage" points for the next round of election. And they found Chris Rock. Enough said.
Pardon the cliché, but Head of State has to be seen to be believed. Hell, just its opening credits alone are LOL already. If you asked me, I would think this flick's mixed bag of humour (from no-holds barred low brow to smart insightful attacks on American electoral politics) worked only because it has been delivered the only way someone as comic-attuned as Chris Rock knew how. The business of making people laugh is a tough one. And IMO, Chris Rock is one of the best in the business.
Can you imagine a fluffier, more convoluted Bulworth crossed with the crude but often logical sensibilities of South Park - The movie? If yes, proceed to imagine lines hurled at you that's as zingy as a Kevin Smith vehicle (both the good and the really bad ones) and blatant slapstick's as throwaway LOL as those Airplane/ Naked Gun movies? Ladies and germs, if you can imagine all that, congrats! Because that is Head of State for you, nutshell cracked wide open. But whether you will swallow the nuts or not (I always chew first, then swallow), will depend largely on your threshold and expectation already.
We need not reminders that we all live in ludicrous times now, do we? So why not accord some of that time laughing at it all, relishing in the enjoyment of a film as ludicrously conceived as this one? Personally, I look upon Head of State as a brilliant political comedy. Its charm actually lies in its greater interest in comedy than politics. I am delighted to see this film juggle sly political wish fulfilment with the conscious play-it-up for laughs. Sometimes, strictly for laughs. So yes, I am won over and willingly lap this flick up.
Make no mistake, Head of State is a hit and miss movie. But its hits far exceed its misses. In fact, its hit rate is almost comparable to (and arguably higher than) the raunch-assisted Scary Movie. Its (sporadic) intelligence however, far surpasses the entire Waymon Bros output combined.
Hmm....its plain to see that the manic sinnerman love this movie. I have not been this entertained in very long time. Hence I shall willingly dispense you all this flick recommendation. If one pop this title into a player at any random night, I do think it will provide willing folks with an antidote release from the blues of a hellish school/work day prior. So people, go hunt for the Head of State now (pun unintended).
My word is out. God bless America....and no place else!
Chris Rock delivers some funny moments, both as writer and actor, as you would expect. But the direction is amateur hour - by turns, static and awkward. The narrative flow doesn't, and the few laughs are punctuated by inane gags and flat writing. Chris Rock is often funny and brilliant, but as this fails in its efforts to be satire and slapstick. The satire is unfocused and often misses its targets; the slapstick is clumsy and, worse, not funny. A misfire by a talent who seems in over his head on this one.
Chris Rock has made an interesting name for himself. He's a black comedian
who's been in almost 60 feature films; a writer and co-writer for movies and
TV shows like Saturday Night Live; and is a man with strong political
opinions. So, with all that talent and experience, you'd think that if he
were to write and produce a political satire, it'd be a mix of biting comedy
with a message.
If only that were the case with `Head of State.' Instead of biting satire poking fun at the political system, there's a collection of gag jokes that, in themselves are funny, but neither politically pertinent or satirical in any way. What's more the romantic-comedy subplot is way too prominent, elbowing out the main theme of the film.
Rock plays Mays Gilliam, a Washington, D.C. alderman, who's a man of the people. He not only does good things in his neighborhood, but even the drug dealers like him. When the existing democratic presidential candidates unexpectedly die, Gilliam finds himself selected by the party to replace them, all in the name of a politically ambitious underling who sets up Rock to lose in hopes of securing the nomination in the next election. Through a series of gags and mishaps, Gilliam not only gets elected, but gets the girl too.
The film certainly has the gags, many of which are genuinely funny. In fact, if it were all gags, a la `Airplane' and `The Naked Gun', then Rock's film would have been surprisingly refreshing. But, the humor was diluted by attempts at a serious side both on the political front and the romantic front and the script fails to know when one ends and the other begins. What's more, the serous or romantic sides to the film, gags notwithstanding, were just plain silly.
It's not that the formula doesn't work. It's been done many times before, such as `Dave', starring Kevin Klein, and Warren Beatty's `Bulworth'. In each case, the `candidate' was unlikely and over the edge, but their straight talk and unconventional approach to politics appealed to the people and resonated with movie audiences. In essence, using this theme as the platform for satirical poignancy was very effective (from an entertainment perspective, not necessarily as a valid social commentary). In the end, the reason these films worked is because it was clear where the gags end and the seriousness begins.
On a separate note with respect to today's current events, I couldn't help but notice that it's because of reality that this movie is actually more disturbing than it should be. In fact, it harkens back to the good old days of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Back then, people didn't take politics or world events seriously at all, as evidenced by the fact that we had actual, serious attempts at the presidency from people such as Donald Trump, Ross Perot, and yes, even Warren Beatty. You'd never see those names in mainstream press in today's environment. Perhaps `Head of State' should have been released during a time when society's perception of politics and the presidency wasn't so important. But today, it's just plain eerie and disturbing.
Intelligent. Chris Rock has balls and he mixes old-school comedy (think
SNL in the 80s) and current American politics. ie. both the republican
and democrats are corrupt and greedy, with no one but themselves at
interest when it comes to "The United States of America." But, as Mr.
Rock points out in the commentary, this film is a comedy, and not
intended to be a political commentary.
So why then did so few people think it was funny? Perhaps b/c they can't see the humour in their own country...how hysterical that the most God-blessed, powerful, and wealthy country in the world can be falling apart so badly. And that the government in election years must pretend to care about its citizens, when obviously they only care about the people who are handing them cheques.
Delightfully irreverent, Chris Rock steps up to the plate.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sadly, what started as a fairly reasonable idea soon collapsed into the
usual Chris 'I'm The Man' Rock ego trip. Written and directed by Rock,
the normally intelligent citizens of North America are forced to digest
a Presidential campaign, fronted by a soon-to-be red lined neighborhood
alderman. As more and more characters are introduced into the plot, the
film turns into a black-on-white power trip. Despite a reasonable
monologue delivered during the Presidential debate, Rock would have us
believe that by using street-slang and 'the black attitude' towards
guns, violence and unemployment, it got him elected to the highest seat
in the land.
Sorry, Chris, no.
Nice try but your ego got there first.
I thought it was really funny but they should have taken out some really stupid parts. Like in the begginning of the movie Chris Rock girlfriend was terribly annoying. Some of the dialouge Chris Rock said was supposed to be funny but it wasn't. Some of the programs the goverment ran were really stupid and they just put it in there to make it PG-13. Ex: Prostitutes. Anyway... Bad company was a lot better. Rent that instead.
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