Down To Earth
Amateur comic Lance Barton (Chris Rock) goes knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door, but he's 43 years too early. So God sends him back to Earth as someone else - an old, white millionaire.
Some things in Hollywood will never die: big egos, William Shatner and movies about reincarnation. Comedian Chris Rock is the latest star to breathe new life into the latter with ''Down to Earth,'' a comedy based on Warren Beatty's ''Heaven Can Wait'' (1978), which in turn was based on the 1941 comedy ''Here Comes Mr. Jordan.'' This time around, the twist involves Lance Barton (Rock), a failing comic who's sent back to Earth after accidentally being killed before his time is up. Trouble is, the only corpse available for him to take over belongs to Wellington, a mean old rich white guy whose wife and business associates want to stay dead.
This movie, brought to a theater near you by ''American Pie'' directors Chris and Paul Weitz, is what it is - a lighthearted romantic comedy starring yet another SNL vet who's great at being funny, not so good at being serious. Watching Rock (as Wellington) get romantic with love interest Sontee (Regina King) is like watching Liz Taylor try to read a teleprompter - embarrassing. As Sontee says to him (no less than three different times throughout the movie), ''There's something behind your eyes.'' It's probably laughter, since Rock can hardly keep a straight face even when playing serious. But when the real-life Rock peeks out, like in the comedy club scenes, he's on.
Here you have a pretty cut-and-dried 85 minutes of basic moviemaking - no fancy visuals or camerawork to speak of. Some scenes are downright hokey, like when a newly dead Lance peers above the clouds with a halo around his head. There's not as much done with Lance's inner-body experience, either. Rock talks the same, looks the same, acts the same as Wellington as he does as Lance, so after awhile you forget he's in an old white guy's body except for the few-and-far-between cuts that quickly show how others see him. What saves this movie from certain death is seeing Rock just be Rock, spouting politically incorrect one-liners about Black Entertainment Television and rap concerts.
If you like Chris Rock, you'll have the time of your life watching Down to Earth.'' If not, it'll be the death of you.