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From Hammy To Haiti And Andre's Top Five

Updated on May 15, 2016
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Andre Allen seeks a new direction in his life and his entertaimnent career. The once-hot film and stand-up comedian has embraced sobriety in more ways besides ceasing his drinking. Even though a big screen comedy franchise made hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, Allen has distanced himself from all comic endeavors since leaving rehab. In Top Five, Allen (Chris Rock) grants an interview to New York newspaper reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), despite her paper leading the way in trashing his serious and recently-released effort. The reporter follows Andre on a day of personal and public rounds. He is accompanied at most points by a driver and by his assistant Silk (J. B. Smoove). Even though he continues to promote the movie, he also has to make some preparations for the reality show he does with fiancé Erica Long (Gabrielle Union), who supported Andre as he chose sobriety. In days, Andre and Erica will marry on their reality show.

Problems arise during Andre's rounds with Chelsea. Erica has ordered a different wedding ring, which she claims stems from a request from their show's producers. When he spends a few moments with his father, Carl (Ben Vereen), the father requests money, which Andre gives him. A visit to old friends provides a respite from people wanting simply just a good time. Andre and Chelsea start to share personal details about their struggles and relationships that ended badly. Their travels go into the night, and a visit to his bachelor party, which is being filmed for the show. When Andre glances at Chelsea's phone, he sees something that angers him. They clear the air on that issue, but she has a question that Andre hasn't really answered.

Top Five, whose title refers to a list of favorite rap musicians that Andre and his friends have, combines comedy, satire, and introspection in an interesting fashion. Andre, like his favorite rappers, is at his best when he does his thing, regardless of those he might offend with his humor. Hammy, a comic character in a bear costume played by Andre, might help the actor financially (and possibly for life), but he's eager to leave behind the bear suit. He wants to show the world he's changed with his reality show and his drama about a successful slave revolt in 19th century Haiti (oddly enough, entitled Uprize, and showing Andre in a reaction shot that hardly looks serious), not thinking that some aspects of his past weren't destructive. Top Five reminds me of a couple of other movies where someone gets introspective about life. In Stardust Memories, Woody Allen plays a filmmaker who deals with his life and his work at a film retrospective, listening to people express their preference for his comedies while at a crossroads in his personal life. In High Fidelity, John Cusack plays a record store owner revisiting his failed relationships while compiling top five lists - mostly of music - for every occasion. While writer-director-star Rock has some fun with Andre's past and image, he also has made a film that has some somber parts, especially as Andre gives more and more of his time to Chelsea. Andre might wonder where he'd be if he were still drinking, but he also starts to wonder where he is in the present, with all the breaks he has made with his past.

I like the chemistry between Rock and Dawson as people who start to blur the line between work and personal life during their day together. The more time they spend together, the less it seems like article material. At one point, Chelsea goes home with Andre to get her recorder. It's there that Andre gets to know about Chelsea's other writing endeavors, as well as meet her mother and daughter. Union does a solid job as Erica, a person who's become a TV star with no discernable talent other than being engagaing for a TV camera, just like the Kardashians and the Jersey Shore ensemble. Smoove is fine as the easy-going Silk, an assistant who keeps Andre on time for his appointments while secretly missing the comedian in Andre. Cedric The Entertainer has a funny bit as Jazzy Dee, an old liaison to Andre who looks very unbusinesslike, then proves it with the way he bails on Andre following the comic's concert appearance. Anders Holm also has a funny bit as Brad, Chelsea's unfaithful boyfriend who gets an unpleasant send-off when she learns. Kevin Hart, Luis Guzman, and Tracy Morgan are among the many who make small, but impactful, appearances in the movie. Celebrities who appear as themselves include Charlie Rose, Whoopi Goldberg, Taraji P. Henson, Adam Sandler, and Jerry Seinfeld. Rapper DMX has a funny moment in a jailhouse scene with Rock, trying to prove to Andre he's talented at something besides his genre of music.

Andre Allen has focused himself on making a complete break from the things he used to do. In part, he does this as a show of gratitude to those who helped him get his life back on track. In purging his past, he doesn't consciously think about any good that came from that time. He sees the poor reaction to Uprize as a bump in the career road of the contemporary Andre, but Chelsea wants to know if serious work is the best thing for Andre moving forward. Top Five examines a performer in the spotlight for both the good and bad he has done and is doing. It is funny and insightful, but occasionally a bit heavy on introspection. While Andre looks to make forward steps from a personal low, he makes to make more with decisions that provide the greatest benefit for himself.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Top Five three stars. Whatever happened to Andre Allen?

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