Head of State (2003)
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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.
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.
"Head of State" is a silly film that every now and then makes laugh. The uneven plot has memorable scenes, like the party with the guests dancing or when Mays tells that God should protect the whole world; but there are stupid scene, most of them with Mitch Gilliam in interviews. But in general, this film is satisfactory and entertains. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "Um Pobretão na Casa Branca" ("A Pauper in the White House")
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.
"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!
A couple of my friends are slightly conservative and were afraid to see this movie. They laughed louder and harder than I did.
This is a good movie overall, with a mass-appeal.
Kudos to Chris Rock.
But this one is different. It was actually very funny. I had a good gutlaugh several times and the movie made a pretty good point, too.
Both Chris Rock and Bernie Mac did a good job in this one. If you like Chris Rock's and Bernie Mac's stand up, I'd advice you to watch this.
FINAL VERDICT: Better than most Rock's other movies. It's worth watching if you are looking for a comedy.
2 out of 10
Sorry, Chris, no.
Nice try but your ego got there first.
Rock is bad (as in "not good"). Bernie Mac offers nothing. Robin Givens is even in this joke (oops! poor choice of words). She should just stick to being Mike Tyson's ex & her occasional Barbara Walters interview. The rest of the cast is forgettable ... and trust me, so is the entire movie.
Stick to the stage Rock ... stick to the stage.
Black people acting like fools basically all the time, being stereotypical village idiots with no wits at all.
stereotypes that really does not help to sooth racial tension in any way, quite the contrary actually.
I gave it a three, if it wasn't for Bernie Mac I would have given it a one.
Nothing in this film is positive, I have no idea what on earth Chris Rock was thinking. The plot is lame, predictable and ridicolous, but it's ok - it's still the best part of the film.. Several of the shots in this film are even done at a kindergarten level, any film maker will frown watching this, as did I..
-10/10 - I'm offended for being presented to this piece of junk, stay away all costs!
One problem with Rock and his selection of movies (for the most part) is that his humor becomes marred by PG-13 ratings. Let's face it, he's a naturally vulgar comedian and we love him for that. We loved Eddie Murphy for being that way, back in his "Raw" and "Beverly Hills Cop" days. Just like how we're forced to see Murphy in corny, watered-down, PC flicks like "The Haunted Mansion" and "Showtime," we're forced to see Rock in flicks like "Down to Earth" (also written by him) and "Head of State." However, one movie where he was funny was "Nurse Betty," an R-rated film. Unfortunately, he was only given a supporting role.
Back to Rock as a writer/director, he may know a lot about comedy, but he knows little about story structure and how to find the balance between comedy and drama. There are way too moments where the movie takes serious turns that dampen the film's broad comic tone (as was the problem, in bigger doses, with "Down to Earth"). But being that we're now in a sugar-coated, PC society, we can't even make a comedy without tacking on bundles of unnecessary sentiment.
Now, onto the main problem with the film. The filmmakers took a brilliant premise that could've been transformed into a razor-sharp satire, and instead settled for a dull, predictable farce. If you were Mr. Magoo, you can see the punchlines for at least 80 percent of the gags coming a mile away. There's even a debate scene where Rock uses the Pee Wee Herman "I know you are, but what am I" line. High brow comedy, huh? The gag that I feared, in watching the film's many trailers and TV spots, is probably one of the funnier scenes--which is of course not saying a whole lot. I'm talking about the White House party scene that involves uptight white people dancing and singing along to Nelly's "Hot in Here." The jokes that do poke fun at today's political climate are treated with way too heavy of a hand. Just watch the gag where women are trained to be whores for the president, like they were doing basic training for the army. A joke that probably sounds funny on paper, but on screen it just comes off as silly.
On a minor note, Bernie Mac plays a supporting role, and his talents are also completely wasted. Mac is another talented comedian who hasn't yet gotten the break he deserved in the movies. So far, he's starred in two consecutive duds: "Mr. 3000" and "Guess Who." If you purchase or rent the DVD for "Head of State," I must admit that Rock's commentary is pretty amusing. But that's the only positive thing I can say.
and even the super who wasn't that super
I can't think of one reason to watch this movie, the best use for the dvd is as a beermat.