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Down to Earth

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Down to Earth

Starring: Chris Rock, Mark Addy
Director: Paul Weitz
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 87 Minutes
Release Date: February 2001
Genres: Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Regina King, Frankie Faison, Greg Germann, Chazz Palminteri, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge

Review by Susan Granger
1½ stars out of 4

When Lance Barton (Chris Rock), a bicycle messenger by day and struggling stand-up comedian by night, finds himself suddenly in heaven, he's convinced there's been a mistake. And he's right: in a celestial foul-up, an assistant (Eugene Ley) grabbed him before his time. So, since his body is no longer available, he strikes a bargain with the Heavenly Host (Chazz Palminteri) to return to Earth as Charles Wellington, a Manhattan billionaire who's just been murdered by his trophy wife (Jennifer Coolidge) and executive secretary (Greg Germann on TV's "Ally McBeal"). In his new guise, he's attracted to a social activist (Regina King) who finds his sleazy business practices reprehensible. It's a re-make of Warren Beatty's "Heaven Can Wait" (1979), which was taken from "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" (1941), based on Harry Segall's 1937 play - with the added twist of a hip, young black man trapped in a rich, 50ish, white man's body, a racial gimmick done before in Eddie Murphy's "Trading Places" (1983). Which leads me to wonder exactly when does a remake become a rip-off?

This updated concept, geared to the MTV crowd, rarely works, mostly due to the plodding pacing and inept comedic direction of brothers Chris and Paul Weitz ("American Pie"). Last year, Chris Rock quit his HBO comedy show to build a movie career and this is his first starring role. Unfortunately, it's not a good showcase for his talents, since supporting actors like Fred die Faison, Mark Addy and Wanda Sykes fare far better than he does with the material. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Down to Earth" is a floundering 4. And, when it appears in the video store, don't confuse it with a 1947 musical of the same name starring Rita Hayworth.

Copyright 2001 Susan Granger

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