Review: “Head of State”

Political comedies from “Wag The Dog” and “Primary Colors” to “Dave” vary in style of humour but for the most part they tend to be quite fun due to intelligent or at least well written scripts.

As a comedian Chris Rock’s big screen career has been solid but not exemplary, mostly because like Robin Williams he’s restrained by the confinements of both the screenplay and censorship. Still he’s proven to be a hell of a smart writer which is a shame as ‘Head’ is such a letdown – a comedy SO broad and over the top, its more like something Leslie Nielsen would do than Rock.

One shouldn’t write it completely off though – like it or not there’s some zany and manic gags which do generate a good belly laugh or two. Some ideas are clever as well, from the Presidential whore to the White House dinner dance to Nelly’s “Hot in Here”.

The casting is solid too. Rock may be playing it clean but still shows off his usual energy even if the moral elements of his character ring false. With only about 20 minutes of screentime, Bernie Mac nevertheless steals the limelight as his always unusually attired brother who gets in a few good ribs.

Dylan Baker, Lynne Whitfield and James Rebhorn all lend strong support, hell even Robin Givens does a great job even if after delivering the best line of the whole film (about the better sex she’s had) she becomes stuck with the film’s worst running gag about ‘security’. The characters are very one-note and what few attempts to develop them are laughable, but all at least try and make them work.

They can’t overcome the mess though. The romantic subplot falls flat on its face as Rock and Tamala Jones have absolutely no chemistry, gags made about the Republican candidates dirty marketing tactics seem old, and when the film goes into the inevitable “I’m a fraud” style depression at the 2/3 mark, it lingers there a LOT longer than it should.

Because much of it is so silly and over the top, there’s no point even trying to find any credibility or tension in the plotline. The direction is also more framed for TV than anything else, giving the production an overall cheap feel (the soundtrack doesn’t help either). Had Rock opted for an edgy and more biting political satire this could’ve worked but what’s here is not only all too clean but so simply ridiculous it ends up shooting itself in the foot. Funny? At times, but more from laughing at it, not with it.