Everything you would ever expect from a Chris Rock Stand Up special, but now in a convenient new feature film shape
“Top 5” is a semi autobiographical tale from the stories and life of Chris Rock, playing a man dealing with issues of race, fame, comedy, debauchery, romance, and pressure all while trying to figure out what is real and what is just part of the game. Some of the biggest names in comedy pop in to explore what’s going on in the brain of one of the most famous comedians of the last 50 years. And what’s going on is a lot.
First I’ll give Rock the credit he deserves here, he feels more natural in this story than in anything I’ve seen him in before. He has always struck me as more of a stage only guy, meaning his presence feels tailored for a live audience rather than a rolling camera, but he manages to make it work here. I’m sure it helps that the source material is so near and dear to his own life, but still it’s worth noting. It also deosn’t hurt that he has a pretty powerful rolodex. Cameos from Seinfield, to Cedric the Entertainer, to Whoopi Goldberg, to Adam Sandler, and more all stop in for some dialog. But make no mistake this is Rock’s movie, he not only stars in it, but wrote and directed it as well, and it showcases well that he is still a really funny guy. The movie has his distinct style of humor and view on the world, and it’s unfiltered in a way you’ve rarely seen in this kind of format. There is a rawness and vulgarity to it that is usually reserved for a stand up set and toned down for the mass audience that might go see a movie on a Saturday afternoon. But here Rock decides that he wants that part on full display, choosing his own authenticity over pandering to a larger audience. And the result is that the movie on display is unique and distinct to his voice, which I think serves it well overall.
Of course it also results in what will probably be much more of a niche experience. In other words if you love Chris Rock you’ll love this movie, if not, well, you’ll probably be a bit put off. Sure there are a few laughs here that anyone might enjoy but for the most part it doesn’t really go anywhere that’s thematically universal enough for me to really get behind. Even the love story, which should ultimately be the tie that holds the humor together often feels forced and for me was the least authentic part of the story. Which, for me means I’m just left with the humor as the sole driver of the movie, which can feel a bit empty.
At the end of the day, “Top 5” feels like a truly personal film for writer, director, actor Chris Rock. It’s as funny, vulgar, and insightful as the comedian himself, and feels like exactly the product he wanted on the screen. Whether you like it or not will likely depend on how you enjoy his stand up, but for me the humor and authentic delivery were enough to raise the lackluster story to a B-.