A hellishly bad movie

Down to Earth

Why isn’t Chris Rock as embarrassed by this movie as the guy next to him obviously is?

Why isn’t Chris Rock as embarrassed by this movie as the guy next to him obviously is?

Rated 1.0

What the hell is Chris Rock doing in a Heaven Can Wait remake?

That film didn’t cry to be remade, and Rock, obviously trying to take the career path of other stand-ups such as Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin into more family-friendly fare, has heeded the wrong call.

In Down to Earth, Rock plays a bad stand-up comedian who gets hit by a bus, and is then mistakenly removed from his body in a heavenly clerical mix-up. He then returns to earth in the body of a chubby, aging Caucasian billionaire, and the racially flavored hijinks ensue, PG-13 style. While in the white man’s body, he falls for a black woman (Regina King), and we’re supposed to buy that this beautiful, young woman is falling for an overweight white guy because she “sees something in his eyes” rather than in his wallet.

So we get Chris Rock in a romantic comedy, and with all due respect, he has no place within a million miles of a romantic comedy. We also don’t need entertainment where this guy is homogenized and not allowed to say some of his favorite words.

Taking the F-word out of Rock’s mouth is like taking Pete Townshend’s electric guitar away. Rock is a funny guy, but he’s better in an amped-up, profane medium, rather than lubby-dubby, cutie pie mode. I’m not saying Rock is only good for dirty joke movies, but a comedy that includes him and not one dirty joke is misguided stuff.

Heaven Can Wait, which starred Warren Beatty in one of his best films, was a great movie, but it came out in the ‘70s, and a retread now seems stale. When buzz about Down to Earth‘s production came out, it was fair to think Heaven Can Wait would only be used as a premise, but this film actually follows its source material closely. That results in a movie that is lacking in freshness, void of surprises.

The only major departure from the original is the main character’s change of skin color when he’s reincarnated, and the screenplay, apart from an obvious and unfunny taxi joke, doesn’t do much with that premise. Instead, it’s an excuse for Rock to play the type of routine, unfunny sweetheart role that Tom Hanks does when he’s slumming. While Hanks manages some mild success and charm in those roles, Rock is completely lost. He looks embarrassed.

The movie is too geriatric, surprising considering that it’s directed by the Weitz brothers, the team behind the overrated, profanely disgusting American Pie. The only thing reminiscent of Pie in this film is the presence of Eugene Levy (the only genuinely funny thing about Pie) as the “goofy” angel. Levy manages his usual high laugh quotient, but he suffers from a lack of screen time. This dumb-assed movie chooses to spend more time with an angel played by Chaz Palmenteri than one played by Levy. Mistake.

Some laughs are had when Rock chooses to rap along with DMX and Snoop Dogg while out in public, a risky venture considering that he’s inhabiting the body of a large white man. When I say some laughs, I mean one or two. The rest of the film is spent in a mode that falls just a few clicks short of torturously boring.

If you’ve seen the recent coma episodes of The Drew Carey Show, you’ve seen reincarnation done in far funnier style. I think Chris Rock is damned funny. I loved him in Dogma and Nurse Betty, two twisted films that allowed him to be the twisted comedian that he is. Down to Earth gives us Chris Rock Lite, reminiscent of Richard Pryor in his declining years. He’s too good for this garbage.