Head of State

Chris Rock is one of the most dynamic, funniest comics working today. So what happens when his material becomes watered down? Head of State. The movie is designed such that there are ample opportunities for Rock to stand on a stage and vent against what he thinks is wrong with the country, much like his stand-up act. However, putting Rock in a PG-13 movie is like putting a muzzle on a guard dog. Rock is at his best when he lets loose and takes no prisoners. Here, the rating limits what he can say, taking away the outrageousness and everything else that makes Rock so popular.

Instead, in his directorial debut, Rock (Bad Company, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) and co-writer Ali LeRoi (Down to Earth) give audiences Rock-lite, and a story that is increasingly the same as every other Chris Rock movie. Rock is a hip black man who, by some twist of fate, lands in a role usually in the hands of a white man. This way, each movie milks humor out of the situation. Rock is Mays Gilliam, the first black candidate for President of the United States. Not many people believe it, including Gilliam. What he doesn't know is that he's a patsy. The party set him up as candidate after their candidate died in a plane crash. They have no hope of winning, but think that by presenting Gilliam, they can lock in the minority vote in the next election.

Gilliam is a lowly alderman, and one of the few politicians who believe he can make a difference. What his handlers Martin Geller (Dylan Baker, Road to Perdition, Changing Lanes) and Debra Lassiter (Lynn Whitfield, Stepmom, A Time for Dancing) do not expect is that Gilliam will break out of their control and begin developing his own voice. He thinks he has a chance, and the further the campaign progresses, the higher his numbers climb. Everything he does is unconventional, from having his brother Mitch (Bernie Mac, Ocean's Eleven, What's the Worst That Could Happen?) as his running mate to going around the country in a tour bus like a rap star. Politicians think he is insane, and the people love him.

Rock needs a lot more practice as a director. He has some awful camera shots, but otherwise just comes off as green. He tries to mix in a hesitant love story between Gilliam and Lisa (Tamala Jones, On the Line, Two Can Play That Game), but every time he switches to it, it slows down the story even more. As Head of State moves closer to its closing credits, it begins to take itself seriously, which is a mistake that makes the film lose its sense of humor. The saving grace is Mac, whose character embodies how Head of State should have gone. Mitch Gilliam is truly a fish out of water, a gruff, sometimes violent character who acts outrageous and completely wrong in every situation. Yes, he may be a caricature, but he's damn funny.

Haro Rates It: Not That Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Rated PG-13 for language, some sexuality, and drug references.

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