Movie Reviews: Down To Earth




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     A black comedian dies and finds that it's a mistake for him to be in Heaven, so he's sent back to earth in another body...that of a rich, chubby white guy.
     Chris Rock, Regina King, Chazz Palminteri
     PG: 13
Bottom Line:


   Saturday Night Live alumni comedian Chris Rock says that life is tiring enough, and he would hate to have to live through it again. However, in his new film Down To Earth Rock does that very thing.
   Rock stars as Lance Barton, a failing amateur comedian who is mistakenly whisked away to heaven before his time to die by an over zealous angel.
   Sound familiar?
   It should.
   Down To Earth is another in a long series of recent Hollywood remakes, proving once again that when there’s a generation who hasn’t seen an old hit movie, there’s a buck to be made doing a remake.
   Based on Warren Beatty’s 1977 hit, Heaven Can Wait, Rock (who doubles as screenwriter) updates Beatty’s version and adds the racial viewpoint of a poor streetwise young black man, who jumps into the body of a wealthy old mogul living in a plush Park Avenue penthouse.
   "I’m a big Warren Beatty fan," Rock told, but he also admitted there was a time not long ago when he really didn’t know who Beatty was (Bonnie and Clyde ‘67) and wasn’t aware of the legend of Warren Beatty both in front of and behind the cameras in Hollywood.
   "Well, for somebody in my age bracket, Beatty is somebody who made Bugsy (‘91), Ishtar (‘87) and Dick Tracy (‘90)," Rock said. "And I only knew about Ishtar because they filmed it at the Comic Strip club."
   Rock said when he finally had the chance to meet Beatty, he thought Beatty was cool. So he decided to watch some of Beatty’s earlier films.
   "When I saw Heaven Can Wait, I said, ‘Wow’! It’s incredible," Rock said. "I thought, 'Richard Pryor should have done this movie.' So here we are today."
   During preproduction a couple years back, Rock finally met Beatty. "He was doing Bullworth," Rock recalls. "But he never offered me a part. Warren is never going to offer you something you might turn down."
   Although Rock’s vision for the film is updated (the Pearly Gates lead to a 24-seven night club run by Mafioso/head angel Chazz Palminteri), it still lends itself to some truly comic moments reminiscent of the original film, such as between Rock’s elderly white character and his young love interest Regina King. And most of the modernized scenarios do work and are absolutely funny because the filmmakers wisely chose to show Rock as himself from the audience’s viewpoint but the characters in the film only see him as an elderly white man trying to cross over to the Hip-Hop world.
   And actually, there lies the real criticism with Down To Earth. The film is neatly wrapped and packaged for the young MTV/BET generation. When compared to the original Beatty film, which had characters and a plot with more textures and layers, Down To Earth comes up short.
   However, Rock said he wasn't actually remaking Heaven Can Wait, and there are many diferrences between the two films that don't lend themselves to easy comparisons.
   Rock also says he's not worried about making the transistion from stand-up comic and supporting actor to lead actor for this film.
   "I feel acting is a challenge in general," Rock said, and he believes in taking the challenge, doing his best and then letting the chips fall where they may and not worrying himself into an ulcer. It's the same attitude he maintains for his stand-up work. "I never think I’m not going to be funny," he said. "If I got paid for the jokes that didn’t work, I’d be Donald Trump."



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