The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday June 10th

Chris Rock's New Comedy Meets Low Expectations

Down To Earth

2 1/2 Stars

The trailer for "Down to Earth" left me bracing for the truly terrible. The movie just looked stupid -- black comedian plays aspiring black comedian who dies, goes to heaven and comes back as old white man? And just in time for Black History Month, too. Goody.

As the film began, I thought of Richard Pryor movies like "The Toy." Was Chris Rock -- who co-wrote and produced "Down" -- about to go out like that? Would Rock, like Pryor, have all his bite and irreverence drained for the sake of Hollywood?

The answers to those questions turn largely on perspective.

"Down" is a lot like a first kiss, in that your expectations determine the outcome almost as much as the act itself.

I thought this movie might rival "CB4" and was pleasantly surprised when it didn't. However, those expecting something more will be disappointed.

Despite an all-star teaming with the directors of "American Pie," Rock fails to deliver a comedic gem. But he does manage to make a predictable picture lively and, at times, hilarious.

After his life is mistakenly taken by an angel, Lance Burton (Rock) makes a deal with the majordomo at Club Heaven, bringing his spirit back to earth in a newly dead body. While all of this is going on, you will probably be wondering how Rock landed a starring role.

That's when it gets interesting. After taking over the frame of billionaire Charles Wellington III, Rock becomes a new man.

The script follows suit. Thankfully, "Down" manages to skip the condescending black-folk-with-new-money routine as Rock's portrayal focuses more on character than color.

This bit of discretion enhances the amusing racial juxtaposition. And the characters milling around the Wellington manor complement the star's style well.

Regina King, who apparently is required to co-star with all black leading men, is Rock's love interest. Their unlikely romance draws the audience back into the plot. And "Down" nicely balances the storyline with Rock's sharp stand-up.

The SNL alumnus' penchant for politically conscious put-downs is on full display in two hilarious monologues, as well as several other poignant moments.

The problem with "Down" is that it never decides what it is trying to be. It would have been nice to see Rock play away from his strength a little more; at the same time, the hard-hitting humor of his HBO show might have proved perfect.

Ultimately, this first kiss leaves the audience with little more than a lukewarm grin.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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