Down to Earth

Talk about recycling ideas. Down to Earth is based on Heaven Can Wait by Warren Beatty and Elaine May, which was based on the play of the same name by Harry Segall. This movie also (arguably) marks the selling out of Chris Rock. Rock is a master comedian, who uses sharp observations, foul language, and his hoarse voice to whip crowds into a frenzy. Prior big screen roles in Lethal Weapon 4 and Dogma (and even Nurse Betty) used his comedic abilities and constant complaining in his roles, achieving sense of the awful corporate word synergy. By using doing what he was good at, Rock was able to make his role in the movie more enjoyable. Not so in Down to Earth. He does not use his talents here. Instead, he waters it down to make it acceptable for a PG-13 rating.

Rock is Lance Barton, an aspiring New York comedian. The only problem is that he is not funny. His dream of entering an Amateur Night contest at the Apollo theater is cut short when a truck hits him. In Heaven, he discovers he was taken a fraction of a second before the truck hit him, so he is actually there by mistake. To rectify matters, two angels let him choose the body of any recently deceased person he wants. He chooses the body of Charles Wellington, the fifteenth richest man in the world. He also happens to be an old fat white man. As Wellington, Barton tries to hone his act in the hopes of getting into the contest, and also sets his sight on Sontee (Regina King, Mighty Joe Young, How Stella Got Her Groove Back). Sontee is an activist who is protesting the real Wellington's decision to shut down an inner city hospital.

A very improbable relationship begins between Sontee and Barton, who also continues in his aspirations as a stand-up comedian. It seems that Barton continually pesters Sontee until she tires of it and agrees to date him. Directors/screenwriters Chris and Paul Weitz (American Pie) and writers Lance Crouthier, Ali Le Roi, and Louis CK combine to made a horribly uneven script. It is funny in a mortifying way watching an old white man act like Chris Rock. In fact, this is what everybody in the film sees. It is not funny watching Chris Rock tone down his act for audiences, and this is what the movie viewer sees. Rock-lite is just not funny. Only when he steps up to the mic does he begin to become his former self. The script has random opportunities for Barton to do stand-up, most of them with varying results.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 26 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language, sexual humor, and some drug references.

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