StoryA tepid reworking of Warren Beatty's Heaven Can Wait (itself a remake of 1941's Here Comes Mr. Jordan), Down to Earth tries to mold comedian Chris Rock into an amiable romantic lead, but it softens the scathingly observant humor that made Rock a standup successor to Richard Pryor. Rock's aggressive style is bracingly expressed in a few good scenes, but through most of this movie--from the directors of American Pie--he struggles with dialogue that would barely pass muster in a low-rated sitcom. Edgy potential loses out to crowd-pleasing with the familiar body-switch formula: by way of premature death and bad timing on the part of heaven's Vegas-styled gatekeepers (played by Eugene Levy and Chazz Palminteri), Rock--as struggling comedian Lance Barton--is reincarnated as a 55-year-old white billionaire with a nasty reputation.
Adjusting (too easily) to his racial transition, Lance charms a hospital administrator (Regina King) who's amazed to see the selfish white billionaire turning into romantic philanthropist. This allows plenty of black/white-contrast jokes (did you ever see a fat, middle-aged white guy who's into hip-hop?), and Rock, who cowrote the screenplay, still manages to work some pointed politics into the movie's good-natured tone. It's guaranteed that some will find Down to Earth quite entertaining, but others will wonder how potent this comedy could have been if Rock had been more willing to confront the harsher truths that lurk beneath the humor. --Jeff Shannon
|Chris Rock||Lance Barton|
|Regina King||Sontee Jenkins|
|Frankie Faison||Whitney Daniels|
|Jennifer Coolidge||Mrs. Wellington|
|John Cho||Phil Quon|