Down to Earth
dir Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
scr Chris Rock, Lance Crouther, Ali LeRoi, Louis CK
with Chris Rock, Regina King, Chazz Palminteri, Eugene Levy, Frankie Faison, Mark Addy, Greg Germann, Jennifer Coolidge, Wanda Sykes, John Cho, Mario Joyner, Brian Rhodes
release US 16.Feb.01; UK 8.Jun.01
Paramount 01/USA 1h27 1 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
It seems a bit odd to remake Warren Beatty's 1978 comedy Heaven Can Wait ... because it was a remake itself (of 1941's Here Comes Mr Jordan). But the filmmakers here thought they'd add a racial twist and a Chris Rock comedy vibe. What were they thinking? Rock plays Lance, a struggling stand-up comic who is accidentally taken to heaven before his time by an overeager angel flunky (Levy), whose boss (Palminteri) tries to fix things by giving Lance the body of a billionaire tycoon, who is, of course, old and white. So in Charles Wellington's body, Lance sets out to do the right thing, undermine Wellington's conniving wife (Coolidge) and assistant (Germann), befriend the good-hearted English butler (Addy) and the zany black maid (Sykes), and to win the girl of his dreams (King). Oh, and to finally become a successful stand-up on the closing night of the legendary Apollo Theatre!

What, indeed, were they thinking? At least with the Weitz brothers (American Pie) at the helm it should be funny. Uh, guess again. The film's only humour is in Rock's comedy routines. Otherwise, it's utterly flat and lifeless--not a single chuckle to be found, the plot clunks and stalls, the romance is contrived and ludicrous. In fact, every scene is contrived and ludicrous, even though the actors try their best. This is one of those breathtakingly bad films in which nothing works on any level; your jaw continues to slacken as you wonder if it can possibly get any worse. Even Rock's kinetic energy doesn't help. Nor does Levy's expert turn as the nebbish angel, or Palminteri's mob-style boss (the concept of heaven as an exclusive nightclub is at least clever). Faison is underused as Lance's agent, Addy is very badly misused, Coolidge and German are just embarrassingly awful. I'm sorry, but even the odd nice little touch here and there can't begin to make up for this unfunny, uncharming mess.
themes, innuendo, language cert 12 4.May.01

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2001 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall