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Down to Earth

Rock On

By Erik Blankinship

Staff writer

Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz

Written by Elaine May and Warren Beatty (1978 screenplay of Heaven Can Wait)

Screenplay by Chris Rock, Lance Crouther, Ali LeRoi, and Louis C.K.

Starring Chris Rock, Regina King, Mark Addy, Eugene Levy, Frankie Faison, and Chazz Palminteri

Rated PG-13

I feared that in making the transition onto the silver screen, Chris Rock would bury himself in a star vehicle destined to be driven off the road like his fellow SNL alumni. Luckily, Rock waited, built up his career with stand-up television specials, and CDs that propelled him to the place where he is now.

Instead of ditching his stand-up routines which have earned him his loyal audience, he found a script that he could work his routines into. At first this might seem like a cheap platform for Rock, but it actually works to the benefit of the film.

The plot of the film is no secret and the trailer sets up the premise. Suffice to say, Rock’s character dies, goes to heaven, is reincarnated, dies again, returns again, all the while trying to win the heart of one woman. While the plot is completely predictable, Rock’s performance pulls the film through.

Though Rock could benefit from a line coach, his sincerity and enthusiasm shines through. One thing I noticed is that Chris Rock does not say one naughty word like in his HBO special. There is no salad tossin’ in this movie. Not in the PG-13 movie, no sir! Fear not though, Rock knows how to make you laugh even if he is maintaining the modesty required by a PG-13 rating. It doesn’t feel like he is holding back -- he keeps true to his form.

Rock’s heaven looks like the Mohegan Sun casino resort, and understandably, Rock is eager to get back to Earth. This journey takes him through three different reincarnations. There are a few Being John Malkovich moments regarding the bodies Rock inhabits, but these only come fleetingly to mind.

The supporting cast does not spoil the film -- the focus is kept on Rock. Regina King, of 227 fame, gives a good performance as the love interest throughout the film.

Switching between girths and racial compositions (thin black guy to fat white guy and back) as he performs his routines, there is a subtle commentary on what makes people laugh, and what does not, and the point is made with laugh-out-loud humor -- just as you would expect from Chris Rock. He delivers in this film, and he was smart enough to keep the focus on himself and not bit parts, special effects, or musical montages.

The soundtrack is good and not gratuitous. Rap bits are mixed into the story and do not reek of record deals with the film studio. Rock sings along with tunes from Ruff Ryders and Snoop Doggy Dogg, and the film features music by Jill Scott, Ginuwine, and Lauryn Hill.