27 Apr

Grownvengers: Top Five

The Setup

We’re following up the disastrous (in so many ways) Kevin James feature with Top Five, a well-reviewed film that was written, directed, and stared in by Chris Rock. Chris Rock had a bad reputation to one of our blog members, so we picked one of his most recent and highly-rated films to offer Chris Rock a chance for redemption. We (including a certain skeptic) were not disappointed.

The Meal

Chris Rock’s character in the movie is also a comedian who has starred in his fair share of campy, unfunny comedy franchises. Naturally, Chris Rock was a perfect fit for this character. Specifically, his character played a police bear named Hammy with the catch phrase, “It’s Hammy Time!” Running with the theme of ham, hamming it up, and hammy time, we developed the Hammy Sammy AKA a Croque Monsieur AKA the Comedic Mister.

Call it whatever you want, but it was delicious. We toasted some bread, slathered it with dijon mustard, layered black forest ham, granny smith apples (just go with it), and Gruyere on top, and capped it off with another slice of bread and some béchamel sauce. It was scrumptious, rich, and had just a little bit of crunch to really tie the sandwich together. We’ve shared the full recipe on Kitchenbowl if you’d like to make one for yourself.

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We paired the Hammy Sammies with prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. We wrapped two stalks of asparagus in a slice of prosciutto, roasted them in the oven, and topped it all off with an over-easy egg. And while the end result was a little salty, all of the elements really worked together wonderfully. We’ve posted directions on Kitchenbowl for this dish too, and it features a cameo appearance by our infamous, unhelpful sous-chef.

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The Drinks

Chris Rock plays a recovering alcoholic, so we didn’t make a custom cocktail for this film out of solidarity.

The Rules

  1. Drink for every cameo appearance.
  2. Drink whenever someone says Hammy.
  3. Drink whenever someone mentions their “Top Five.”

Since we sat this round out ourselves, we can’t take any responsibility for what may happen to you by the end of the film if you follow these rules.

The Movie

We all agreed that the only person who could play Andre Allen is, in fact, Chris Rock, mainly because it is hard to divorce this film from the man itself. Here is a comic who started out his career doing stand-up, moved on to film (often times playing the sidekick), had his fair share of very poorly reviewed comedies, and for all intents and purposes was generally regarded as washed up. Andre Allen, the name and the man, is more of a device to build a foundation for humor, in this alternate world that he and Hammy the Bear live in. Like the Oscar award-winning film Birdman, this lead to unexpected moments that were smart and keenly self-aware.

In Top Five, Allen is preparing for his upcoming nuptials with his reality TV star fiancé, and has to deal with the cameras and attention that come along with celebrity marriages. Meanwhile, he is also trying to promote his new movie, Uprize, where he plays the role of a Haitian slave during the 1791 rebellion. This is a major change of character for the comedic actor, and the new movie disappoints his lingering fan base who would prefer to see him make a fourth Hammy movie. The press circuit leads him to an interview with Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) who is working for the New York Times. Some of the best moments in the film are between these two because they are very natural and have a believable chemistry that really propels the movie forward during some of its slower moments. This interview also brings us to the real meat of the film, or ham if you will, which is the interaction and conversation between them as they talk about race, their pasts, and their sobriety. They follow each other around New York City coming across family, fans, and everything in between. The film ultimately leads leading up to a swell of relationship drama, drinking, and flared passions.

While we could give away the last 20 minutes of the film, which is where the film shines, we don’t want to take that moment away from you. Just when you think you know where the film is going and how it is going to wrap up, it takes you somewhere unexpected and yet so fitting. It is heart-warming and works on multiple levels. Good on you Chris Rock

The Reviews

Andre: On the Chris Rock scale, I’d give it a quartz. Top Five is certainly a gem among Chris Rock movies, but it isn’t perfect. There are some cloudy parts that could use some polishing – namely, Chris Rock’s actual acting ability – but there are some moments of clarity in the film that really sold me on it, like the scene where Andre Allen revisited his childhood home and had lunch with his friends. I have to credit Chris Rock for some truly great writing and directing, but I sometimes found myself wishing he had casted someone else to play Andre because he really is a sub-par actor. I definitely see some parallels between him and Jerry Seinfeld, who is another comedic genius who loves to write about his life and act out his writing himself on screen, even if the jokes would certainly be better delivered by another actor. That being said, I can’t fault Chris Rock for wanting to play the role of Andre Allen since the character is clearly based off of his own life and experiences. Overall, I forgive my previous grudge I was holding against Chris Rock.

Leanna: 3 stars out of 5. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t my favorite movie, but it was pretty good. There were parts where I genuinely laughed out loud, and it felt like the soul of the movie was carried by Chris Rock’s performance. It was clear that he was very passionate about this project (he’d have to be given he wrote, directed, and starred in it), and it showed. He never phoned it in, like other comics sometimes do, and he managed to tell a compelling story.

Ben: 80% While it took a little bit to get used to the pace and quick cut nature of the film, when I finally fell into a groove, Top Five showed its wonderful self: a natural form of filmmaking that subtly and unknowingly becomes a romantic comedy that everyone can get behind. In addition, the self-awareness Top Five displays is used wonderfully and the movie is genuinely funny in a variety of ways. Now, there is a homophobic and pretty poor joke halfway through the film, which detracts and seems out of place from what is a modern comedy, but the rest of the movie is a strong showing from Chris Rock, and I look forward to how he follows up Top Five.

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