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Head of State

Starring Chris Rock; Bernie Mac
Screenplay by Chris Rock and Ali LeRoi
Directed by Chris Rock

Before we begin it is important to note that these reviews are written when a film is released to the big screen. We get a lot of eMail from renters, all of whom are reminded that watching a teevee isn't the same kind of experience. We're also writing at a time when our country has gone to war. We don't involve this site in politics but, given all the heavy duty stuff that comes along with war, we sure needed a comedic diversion, at least for a little while. The only problem, before the fact, is that this week's comedic diversion comes from the maker of the dud Pootie Tang. So . . .

IN SHORT: Chris Rock finally gets one right. [Rated PG-13 for language, some sexuality and drug references. 99 minutes]

As an alumni of one of the funny casts of Saturday Night Live, we've been amazed at how unfunny Chris Rock's movies have been. We had to look up our thoughts on Pootie Tang and Down to Earth because they were so forgettable that we'd forgotten all about them. We didn't leave a puddle under our seat after screening Head of State but we did walk out with a smile on our face. Whatever Mr. Rock has learned from those unfortunate outings, excepting some gratuitous language, has finally paid off.

One of the reasons we make every effort not to look at television commercials is best exemplified by Head of State, which had all the look of a one joke flick ("hey, hey, streetwise black dude is elected president! Look at him out talk all the dumb white boyz in suits!"). Surprise, folks, we can't remember the last time we laughed at opening credits but we did with Head of State and, for the most part didn't stop until the closing credits rolled. We're not going to flaunt our constitutional knowledge by pointing out all the legal inconsistencies in the script. This is a comedy. It is made to make you laugh. It does its job. End of story.

Mays Gilliam (Rock) is the star of the show. An alderman from Washington DC, Mays' life isn't exactly running on the fast track. He's got a storefront office in which to field complaints about the local bus service. His incredibly fine girlfriend Kim (Robin Givens), is about to become his incredibly fine ex-girlfriend, ostensibly because he has no career ambition. The possible femme alternative, Lisa Clark (Tamala Jones) is only interested in selling him scratch off Lotto tickers. When tragedy rears its ugly head, off screen since this is a comedy, Mays' political party is left without a viable candidate to run against the sitting Vice President Brian Lewis (Nick Searcy). It is the brilliant idea of Senator Bill Arnot (James Rebhorn) to give the nomination to a minority candidate so that, four years down the line, they (meaning he, since he intends to be the candidate) can take credit for being racially progressive. Campaign manager Martin Geller (Dylan Baker) and speech writer Debra Lassiter (Lynn Whitfield) are ordered to ride herd on the new candidate.

Also on the staff is a professional woman of the night (Stephanie March), 'cuz it's a wise political party that's learned to keep the scandalous types on the payroll, with a signed non-disclosure agreement safely locked away somewhere. March is totally wasted in this role as is the potential for any kind of sexual innuendo. It may be that having a highly recognizable teevee face is a marketing ploy to counter any gut feeling that a film predominantly starring African-Americans is strictly for African-Americans. We don't know marketing. We know funny. Head of State is funny. Period. There's almost nothing left to describe, as Rock comedically shreds all the generic campaign speeches and commercials that we have come to ignore in "real" campaigns. When the candidates start swapping negative ads one for one, it doesn't get much funnier (or nastier) than that.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Head of State, he would have paid . . .


No, it ain't perfect, but Head of State has no pretensions of being something to be studied in film schools fifty years from now. The usually funny Bernie Mac appears as Mays' older brother Mitch, who gives sage advice and beats the crap out of little 'M'. Rock's writing style is still closer to the eight minute SNL sketches he used to pen. Those looking for overall story arcs will find flaws. Those looking to plant for laughs will find this 99 minutes war news free farce to be far more enjoyable.

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