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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

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Susan Granger read the review movie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2½ stars out of 4

In DOWN TO EARTH, Chris Rock plays a struggling standup comic, Lance Barton, whose jokes -- "I know this gal so ugly she had to wear makeup on the radio" -- have been dying. As he tries to get ready for his life's dream, a slot at the amateur night in the last show at the famous Apollo theater, he ends up even deader than his material. Not one to let a technicality like a heavenly address get in his way, he negotiates with the heavenly powers (Chazz Palminteri and Eugene Levy) to insert him into another earthly body so he can play his big gig. For the record, the hereafter looks like a big blue nightclub.

If this plot sounds familiar, it should. DOWN TO EARTH is a remake of the 1978 film HEAVEN CAN WAIT, starring Warren Beatty. That film, confusingly, was itself a remake, not of the 1943 film HEAVEN CAN WAIT, but of the 1941 picture HERE COMES MR. JORDAN. Now that we've gotten that straightened out, we can proceed.

Young, black, slender and poor Lance ends up in the body of Charles Wellington, a pudgy, white billionaire who is supposed to be 53 but looks a decade older. Once in his new skins, Lance finds that he sees himself, but everyone else still sees Charles's body. The audience sees Lance, except for a few scenes when Charles is rapping or joking with black humor, as blacks stare at him in disbelief and dismay. At those times, the audience sees this old white guy disconcertingly trying to act black.

Lance transforms Charles from vicious capitalist into kind philanthropist. It isn't quite as magnanimous as it sounds, since Lance starts his giving as a way to impress Suntee (Regina King), a community activist who opposes Charles's plans for Brooklyn Community Hospital. Charles, the 15th richest man in the world, wants his hospital to boost profits by turning away people without insurance. In a dazzling performance for the cameras at the hospital's board meeting, Lance, as Charles, declares, "Shot in the head, you get a bed." No one notices that Charles's lingo suddenly sounds downscale. "Drive home safely, tip your waitresses," he tells his board when he leaves. "I gotst to go."

It's a good natured story, and Rock radiates a sweet likeableness throughout. But, the bottom line is that the movie is basically one long Chris Rock comedy routine. If you like his shtick, you'll probably like the movie. For my taste, some of his jokes are cute, but most don't quite click. Not a bad movie. Think of it as a near miss.

DOWN TO EARTH runs 1:27. It is rated PG-13 for language, sexual humor and some drug references and would be fine for kids around 9 and up.

My son Jeffrey, almost 12, gave the movie ** 1/2, saying that some of the jokes were funny but many weren't. He mentioned several structural problems he had with the script, especially the way the last act and the ending were handled.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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