Why Can’t Chris Rock Make a Good Movie?
Chris Rock is directing a new movie, a remake of the well-loved Danish film Another Round about a group of teachers who try to stay drunk all day. Because the Internet, people were immediately mad, protesting that it’s too soon for a new version of the 2020 movie and that Rock could never comprehend its very Scandinavian mindset.
But maybe a better reason to question Rock’s remake is this: Can the stand-up legend make an awesome movie? He’s had a few swings now as a writer/director and can’t seem to nail it. His best is 2014’s Top Five, with even positive reviews like the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s Dwight Brown damning Rock with faint praise: “Top Five gives us a glimpse of his comic genius. Just a tad.”
That was a step up from 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife, currently at 17 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. USA Today lamented that there was “very little that's clever, romantic or witty in this formulaic romp.” 2005’s Head of State in which Rock runs for President? The Washington Post grumbled that “it isn't as sharp, fast or funny as Rock's stand-up routines.”
Why can’t Rock seem to crush one of his writer/director efforts? Here are a few theories:
Rock the Moviemaker Is Competing with Rock the Stand-up
Washington Post’s Rita Kempley nailed it — while Head of State might have been viewed as a promising debut if the writer/director was named Chad Rock, it couldn’t help but pale next to Bring the Pain and Bigger and Blacker, the steller stand-up specials Rock released in the years leading up to the film. There’s very little that’s “as sharp, fast or funny” as those classics, setting an impossible standard for a first-time movie director.
Rock Might Be His Own Worst Enemy
One problem when everyone says you’re a genius? You probably aren’t going to argue. Mid-1990s Chris Rock, coming off humbling turns on Saturday Night Live and In Living Color, likely would have sought counsel from other comics and filmmakers on any writing/directing jobs. For all I know, he’s done that on all of his movie efforts, but when push comes to shove, Rock likely trusts his own instincts over the advice of others who can provide valuable outside perspective. Someone whispering “Maybe you should cut that overlong scene” never hurts.
Being Good at One Thing Doesn’t Make You Good at Everything
Despite a passable voice and really, really wanting to be a pop star, a music career wasn’t going to happen for Eddie Murphy. John Mayer can make a guitar wail, but he bombed hard when he tried stand-up at the Slipper Room. Rock is a generational talent as a comedian but that fact doesn’t make him a world-class triathlete, tap-dancer or movie director. His extraordinary genius in one area gives him the opportunity to try in another, but history shows that most of us aren’t transcendent at everything we attempt. So far, the comic hasn’t proven to be an exception to that rule.
To be clear, I’m rooting for Rock and his version of Another Round. Maybe this is the one — or maybe it will be another entry in his Hall of Pretty Good. If he can hit this one out of the park, I’d be happy to buy the guy drinks all day long.