Bored Again

Heaven Can Wait, but Hell can't, for Down to Earth

The entire film displays an unpalatable cowardice. It's a comedy about race that doesn't have the balls or brains to actually deal with the subject. We never understand why, as Wellington, Lance is funny. (In Heaven Can Wait the audience never sees the borrowed body; here we're given occasional glimpses of Wellington, though the actor who plays him is never mentioned in the press notes -- as if he doesn't exist.) As Lance, Rock is a stuttering, sputtering performer; he trips over his own punch lines, when he has them at all. But as Wellington, Lance kills -- to the point he lands the Apollo gig Lance so desperately covets, though, inevitably, he must trade Wellington's body for yet another, which so happens to be one of the brothers on the Apollo bill that very night. (Please, like it's a surprise?)

The filmmakers have no problem showing us Wellington but we never hear him, which mutes the joke; it's still Chris Rock shouting Chris Rock's material. The joke never comes off, especially when we see Wellington rapping along to DMX ("Niggaz wanna try, niggaz wanna lie/Then niggaz wonder why, niggaz wanna die") in a fast-food joint but hear it in Rock's voice. We're never allowed to buy into the movie's premise -- that skin color doesn't matter, as long as there's soul beneath the surface -- because the filmmakers don't go far enough. They pull up lame, so when Sontee and Lance finally kiss, we don't buy it: She's making out with Chris Rock, not some white dude. There's no shock and no meaning; it's just a kiss, as empty and hollow as most in movies.

Regina King and Chris Rock recycle a recycled role
Regina King and Chris Rock recycle a recycled role

Details

Based on Heaven Can Wait by Elaine May and Warren Beatty; based on the play Here Comes Mr. Jordan by Harry Segall. Opens Friday.

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