|Head of State (2003)
Starring: Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dylan Baker, Nick Searcy, Robin Givens, Lynn Whitfirld
Director: Chris Rock
I'm a huge Chris Rock fan. His stand-up routines are hilarious and rival some of the best stuff from Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor in their prime. His movies, however, have not lived up to the same standard, and "Head of State" is not an improvement. Just before screening this film I caught one of Rock's HBO specials from the late 1990s on the tube. I laughed the whole way through. Unfortunately, there were more laughs in the last couple of minutes of that special than there were throughout this entire film.
In "Head of State" Chris Rock plays Mays Gilliam, an alderman in Washington D.C. who represents one of the poor sections of town. After losing his seat, Mays gets tapped to be the presidential nominee for one of the major parties after the original nominee gets killed in a plane crash. The whole messy process of replacing a nominee of one of the major parties is conveniently avoided in the script.
The whole premise is ridiculous, but that's pretty much the point here. The script is a setup for Rock's jokes, and some of them are pretty funny. Rock takes plenty of shots at the political system, with some of the funnier scenes poking fun at over-the-top political commercials. The funny scenes, however, are easily outnumbered by boring, predictable scenes used to advance the silly plot. Also, the storyline relating to his love interest could have been lifted from hundreds of lame Hollywood comedies. It was a complete waste of time. The movie gets a boost when Bernie Mac shows up as Mitch, Mays' brother and running mate, but it's not enough to save the film.
Rock does everything in "Head of State," and that probably caused the problems here. He co-wrote the script and made this his directorial debut. Unfortunately, the film would have had a chance if a solid director with comedy experience had been given the assignment. Rock's performance was flat, probably because he had way too much to do. He's not a natural actor, so maybe an experienced director could have gotten more out of him. At the very least he could have thrown out half the script.