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Jordan Hiller on Film

Down to Earth (PG-13)

"A story of premature reincarnation."

I truly believe the funniest thing about Chris Rock is the way his skinny neck manages to hold up such large bulging eyes and a tremendous toothy grin. I also think it is amusing how Mr. Rock thinks if he says an ordinary phrase slowly, loudly, and with high pitched exclamation, the ordinary phrase becomes comedic or profound. If you are one of the many people who think Rock is a great comedian and a bitingly perceptive social commentator, then you may enjoy this movie. If you're like me then you will laugh twice, smile three times, and look at your watch for most of the ninety minutes.

The plot, for a reincarnation movie, is handled with breezy simplicity. The black comedian is taken early by an angel (Eugene Levy, being done a favor by the duo who directed him in American Pie last year), and is only returned to earth in an old white man's body…a "complicated" means to the end, that Rock desires.

Rock saw the untapped goldmine of humor, found when a white person acts black. Maybe he didn't realize that this joke has been played out by everyone from Seth Green to Warren Beatty…..and speaking of Mr. Beatty, for those who don't already know, this movie is "inspired" by Heaven Can Wait, a well-known 1978 movie written by and starring Warren Beatty. The difference here is that it is only Rock who sees himself as black, so he acts accordingly,(i.e. saying "stop playing" repeatedly) while the rest of the world sees him as a white geezer. Watch a white senior citizen get down to Snoop Dog - Laugh. Watch a him say "nigga" to a gang of black thugs - Laugh.

However, the best and funniest portions of the film really have nothing to do with Rock or Charles Wellington, the deceased elderly billionaire, whom he has become. New Yorkers, who have seen countless episodes of "Showtime at the Apollo" will definitely get a kick out of the hysterical send up of the amateur performers and the rowdy audience reactions.

The supporting cast does very well, most notably Greg Gurmann of Ally Mcbeal and Wanda Sykes as a disgruntled employee.

What is truly holding back this movie is its reincarnation theme. I would rather have seen a movie about the struggling comedian trying to make it or, perhaps, a comedy about a rich man and his quirky staff (uhhh ok maybe not).

The romantic interest is played by the talented Regina King (Jerry Macguire) as a young, African American hospital owner and 'Wellington' hater. King plays Sontee Jenkins straight and the only explanation she can give as to why she has turned around and fell in love with a freaky old white guy is by constantly chanting the mantra, " There's something about your eyes"…weak

Now here is why you should read this review!

Who else is going to make the connection that Regina King has not played someone with the last name "Jenkins" since she portrayed Brenda Jenkins on 227. (sometimes, I scare myself) No applause necessary, I enjoy it.

In Three Sentences or Less....

Not an ambitious follow up to American Pie for the Weitz brothers. Don't believe it if you hear that Chris Rock has arrived as a full fledged movie star, because he's got a ways to go. See it on Channel 11 next year…that is, if Sixteen Candles isn't on.


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Trivia Question:

Frankie Faison, who plays Rock's comedy manager, is featured in another movie that is in theatres now. What is it?

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Reviews by Jordan Hiller

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American Splendor


The Holy Land

Return from India

The Shape of Things

City of Ghosts

Anger Management


The Guys

Assassination Tango

Gaudi Afternoon


Nowhere in Africa

Foreign Sister



L’chayim, Comrade Stalin
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Divine Intervention

The Pianist

Best films of 2002 1992

8 mile

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Panic Room

The Oscar Preview 2002

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Enemy At the Gates


Exit Wounds

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The Mexican

Down to Earth

Meet the Parents

Golda's Balcony HERE

Tribeca FIlm Festival 2003

Daily Coverage: HERE

Photo Gallery HERE

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Sweet Sixteen

The Shape of Things

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