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Introduction
I’m a big fan of Chris Rock. Comedians are generally pretty good but it takes something a little bit different to lift them up into the truly hilarious category. While I have never really enjoyed those who use race as the basis for their entire routine, Rock seems to do it better than anyone. The problem is this style of comedy isn’t at all suited to the big screen. Whoever suggested otherwise should take a good look at this film as the perfect example of how hard-edged comedy in the style of Chris Rock is nothing more than box-office suicide.

Movie
Black guy dies. Shouldn’t have died so soon. Angels come along. Inhabits the body of a hated white guy. Tries to make up for his wrongdoings.

Sound pretty stupid? Well it is. The whole premise of the story doesn’t even come close to a hint of comedy so it’s no wonder the jokes fall flat on their face. Chris Rock is Lance Barton, a bike courier who is tragically run over only, only to be given another chance by an inept angel and his mean-looking boss. Eugene Levy and Chazz Palminteri should’ve stayed well away from this one because even their comedic talents couldn’t save some seriously tardy writing and even worse direction. It’s based somewhat on the comedy Heaven Can Wait which in its own right wasn’t really too crash hot either. Sadly, this one’s not much of an improvement.  

A black Dick Tracy.
The whole film just smacks of being put together just to exploit the popularity of Chris Rock. He is a bike courier but also a struggling comedian. What a coincidence!! In the beginning his stand-up routines (placed periodically throughout the film to break up the boring storyline) is intentionally bad but then even his successful routines as the fat white guy often fall flat because he is restricted in his range. Anyone who has seen Chris Rock perform his stand-up would know that most of his humour is pretty adult, so the fact that this film earns only a PG rating in Australia is testament to the fact Hollywood was trying to make a family comedy with absolutely the wrong star. It’s like placing George Carlin in High Fidelity when he is just screaming out to say the f-word a thousand times. You can’t perform racially based comedy with any success if it is meant to be acceptable for 15 year-olds, even if they are accompanied by a parent.

Possibly the only thing that works during the film is the interaction between the millionaire white guy’s wife, played by Jennifer Coolidge and Ally McBeal’s Greg Germann. It raised the odd chuckle, which seemed like a howl of laughter after sitting there for the majority in a bored silence.

Why the Weitz boys from American Pie jumped aboard this one is totally beyond me. The movie was written by Rock himself, which should have been a gigantic neon warning sign for them to stay away. The fact that it is a romance and aimed at totally the wrong audience for the subject matter would have kept everyone but the most foolish of directors from signing on the dotted line. Not a good career move for two previously successful boys.

Chris Rock fans might get some sort of entertainment out of this one, if only during his too few stand-up scenes in the movie. For a romantic comedy the film suffers two major flaws. Firstly, it’s not terribly funny at all and secondly, it’s not romantic in the slightest. When Chris Rock talks about how beautiful someone’s eyes are then you’re bound to be on to a real stinker. Go and watch him in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back because he’s funnier in that fifteen minute cameo than in the whole of Down To Earth.

Eugene's favourite suit.
Video
Despite what the back cover might say, the film is actually presented in 1.85:1 and is 16:9 enhanced. On the whole it’s a pretty impressive transfer with sharpness the key to the brilliant look of the film. The colours stand up quite well, even in the brightly lit “Heaven” scenes, and the blacks are extremely deep, making for a very impressive video transfer.

Audio
Present on the disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as well as a Dolby 2.0 soundtrack. Being a mainly dialogue driven (cough) romantic comedy there is not a lot of action in the surrounds. Dialogue is clear all the time and the only lip-synch problems occur when Chris Rock is talking whilst the white guy is on screen. Even in this instance the synchronisation isn’t really all that noticeable or distracting.

The music is quite good, with big bass-driven tracks forming the bulk of the soundtrack. Artists like DMX and Snoop Dogg provide a bit of punch that was lacking in the minimal surround use. Nice on the ears.

Extras
Oh, what a shame. Only a theatrical trailer and a featurette, which is inappropriately classified as exclusive cast & crew interviews on the back cover. This is the usual fare with footage from the movie as well as interviews and the like. Ho hum.

The unfunny butler.
Overall
Not even reference quality video and audio and a stomping extras package could save this one from the scrap heap. The first viewing in the cinema was painful enough, and by the sounds coming from the audience I wasn’t alone in my thinking. The repeat viewing didn’t get any better. Despite a good transfer and decent audio this film is neither romantic nor humorous and is better left alone.


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