March 2003
Head of State

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Head of State
Distributor: Dreamworks SKG
Director: Chris Rock
Producers: Ali LeRoi, Chris Rock, & Michael Rotenberg
Screenplay: Chris Rock, Ali LeRoi
Cast: Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Lynn Whitfield, Dylan Baker, & Tamala Jones, James Reborn & Nate Dogg

 

    

The toughest thing a comedian has to go through every time he performs is making folks laugh. You just never know what people will be in the mood for when it comes to humor. For Chris Rock, heís had a long run at making people laugh. His cable show, The Chris Rock Show, is no longer on HBO, but when it was, he was not only good, but great. As one of the writers of the show, he knew what the people wanted to hear. His last good major film, Down To Earth, had some funny moments. Now in his latest film, Head of State, Chris not only stars in the film, but directed it himself, which is where he made a mistake. It's tough to criticize your own jokes, when you wearing the major hats of the production (Director, Co-Producer, Co-Screenwriter, and actor). What started out with some good jokes soon fell flat and too preachy.

Mays Gilliam (Rock) is a Washington D.C alderman who wants to support the case for every man who comes by his office. He believes this is a good cause but at the expense of losing his girlfriend (Givens), who leaves him when she doesnít see a future with a poor politician. Elsewhere, the leading presidential nominee and his running mate are killed in a horrible plane crash. Their Democratic party believes that all lost is when no one wants to run against the incumbent Republic Vice-President. Senator Bill Arnot (Reborn) wants a shot at the office, but not now. He needs a patsy to cause a stir in the election so that he could run 4 years from now. Enter Gilliam. After seeing him on TV rescuing a lady from a house on fire and seeing the good response heís attracted, Arnot feels heís found his candidate. With the help of campaign managers Debra Lassiter (Whitfield) and Martin Geller (Baker), Mays Gilliam is convinced that the time is right for a Black President. When Mays discovers that heís a pawn to Arnotís agenda, he takes matters in his own hands. Selecting his brother (Mac) as his running mate, Mays is ready to take America by storm.

There are some moments that are downright hilarious such as when Mays gets ďghettoĒ to appeal to his people and get their support, but the rest of the film falls flat. With the exception of Woody Allen, there arenít that many comedian-actors who direct themselves in a film. Co-written by his comedy show partner, Ali LeRoi, the gags get repetitive and stale after its initial run. The dialogue didnít seem natural and some of the characters werenít believable. Robin Givens, who hasnít been seen on the big screen in ďa minuteĒ, is basically useless in an unfunny way. Bernie Mac is the best thing in the film and heís used sparingly. He brings his persona to the screen and lights things up a bit. Itís time for Bernie to do own his thing. What are Dylan Baker and Lynn Whitfield doing in this picture? Even as the straight players in the film, they seem out of place. Tracy Morgan was underutilized and he has some funny bones that need to let out. There seems to be this growing trend that itís okay to make fun of the African American culture such as we have in Bringing Down the House and in this film. Head of State is a film that starts off with potential but ultimately leaves you wanting and waiting for more jokes.