Volume 96, Issue 98
Thursday, April 3, 2003

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MOVIE REVIEW: Head of State

Head of State knows better than Mike Tyson did

Head of State

Starring: Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Robin Givens
Directed by: Chris Rock

By Pierre Hamilton

Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
WOULD YOU TRUST THIS MAN AS THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENT?Well, at least he's better than Bush. Chris Rock paints the White House black in Head of State.

If Bill Clinton was black, he'd be played by Chris Rock. If Al Gore was black, wellÉ you can only stretch a metaphor so far.

In Head of State, Rock plays Mays Gilliam, a down-and-out alderman in the ghettoes of Washington, D.C. who is hand-picked to lose the presidential election. However, in this fantasy, you can't keep a good black man down, as Gilliam and his older brother Mitch (Bernie Mac) embark on their campaign: "MG2K4, Ya Heard!"

Between assassination attempts, the Nubian combo of M & M (Mays and Mitch) dodge interview questions, struggle against ruthless politicians and still find the time to keep it real.

While every fairy tale has a narrator, only Head of State employs hip-hop crooner Nate Dogg to fill in viewers with plot details.

Do stand-up comedians lose their creative edge when they get to Hollywood? Yes! Chris Rock is funny; in his stand-up movie Bigger and Blacker he stunned fans worldwide with a style of presenting social commentary that jumped out of the screen and held a knife to your throat for the duration of his act. Like Crystal Pepsi and slap bracelets, those days have come and gone. Chris Rock is safe, watered-down, ego-driven Hollywood material.

Like day-old bread, a lot of the jokes in Head of State are stale, but unlike in other top-grossing "fish out of water" comedies (see: Bringing Down the House), you will laugh on more than one occasion. Continuing the Saturday Night Live trend of hiring your co-workers, Rock gives Tracy Morgan the role of "Meat Man." Morgan thrives in the small role, using the old "east coast, west coast" beef to his advantage.

Robin Givens returns to a role she last visited in her brief marriage to Mike Tyson, playing May's gold-digging ex-fiancée. In a climatic break-up scene ripped from the pages of her divorce, Kim (Givens) berates Mays to the point where he actually raises his fist to hit her. Fortunately, he doesn't follow through – a lesson Tyson himself has yet to learn.

Writers Chris Rock and Ali Leroi spare no expense in cutting up everyone from Jay-Z to the richest black woman in America, Oprah Winfrey. On a date with his romantic interest, Mays points to the United States Treasury, telling Lisa (Tamala Jones) that if you look inside the windows you can see Oprah counting her money: "$20 trillion, $21 trillion."

Head of State
is exactly what the people want to see – a comedy that conforms. From Bullworth to Undercover Brother to Head of State, the formula remains the same. Take any black comedian, place him in close proximity to white folks, add one enthusiastic intern and blame it all on "The Man." The result? The number 1 grossing film in America, second only to Bringing Down the House.

In a televised debate with the republican candidate, Mays delivers a biting critique of America's foreign policy, noting that his opponent continually states "God bless AmericaÉ and no one else." According to Mays, America needs to start saying "God bless America and everyone else."

The film's ending may surprise you, but don't let it fool you: it's the same ol' Coca-Cola, only with new packaging.

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