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Down To Earth

review by Zach B.

Rated PG-13

Studio: Paramount

Running Time: 87 minutes

Starring Chris Rock, Regina King, Mark Addy, Eugene Levy, Frankie Faison, Greg Germann, Jennifer Coolidge and Chaz Palminteri

Screenplay by Chris Rock & Lance Crouther & Ali LeRoi & Louis CK
Based on the film "Heaven Can Wait" Screenplay by Elaine May and Warren Beatty
From a play by Harry Segall

Directed by Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Cast and Crew Interviews, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital English 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, Scene Selection (14 Scenes)

Released: July 10th, 2001

Lance Barton (Chris Rock) is an up and coming comedian who just can't just get his act right, as he's booed right off of the Apollo stage in New York City. Shortly after, poor Lance is hit by a truck and dies. However, when he gets to heaven, in form of a nightclub no less, it turns out he was taken too early. Two angels (Chaz Paliminteri and Eugene Levy) offer him to go back... but in the body of Charles Wellington III, a billionare. From there, Lance falls in love and actually makes a difference, and learning to accept his new body while facing his insecurities from before.

I like Chris Rock as a comedian and an actor, and I really wanted to like this movie a lot. While it's not bad by any means, it's really nothing great or funny. As most of you probably know, this movie is a remake of the 1970s Warren Beatty movie "Heaven Can Wait", which in turn was a remake of the classic 1941 film "Here Comes Mr. Jordan", all from the stage play by Harry Segall. Out of the three, this is the worst incarnation of the story as it plays on boring characters and predictible plot lines that we've seen before so many times over.

I was personally very surprised, since Rock co-wrote the script with three of his writers from "The Chris Rock Show", which is a very funy show in my opinion that went off the air pretty recently. Characters are two dimensional at best, while quite a few are one dimensional that are poorly developed and really don't add so much to the plot of the movie. Subplots are setup that don't go anywhere and the ones that setup are dull and really don't add much to the characters or the film. This movie goes fast, as it has a short run time of only eighty minutes (and then seven minutes of credits), but what disappointed me the most is how this movie is not really that funny. The four writers are great comedians, but what they pull in this movie isn't that funny. Sure, there are some decent one-liners, but the final comedy performance, stand-up jokes and whatnot aren't that great. Considering that it's about an African-American stuck in a white man's body, I bet if they worked on it a bit more they could have thought of a whole lot more funnier sequences to put into this film to sort of even out the flaws. With the script, there is some moral preaching and an ending that goes on a bit too long for what it is. The ending is a nice touch and really nothing new, but it accomplishes what it wants to. However, I felt it was tacked on a bit. It also sort of makes things a little pointless.

Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz, two great actors and up and coming directors (they did "American Pie", but alas, Chris did not qualify for a DGA credit), do a standard job here. I guess it fits the film's context fine, but they make things plain looking and boring to look at, where there could have been more pizzaz with Wellington's wealth and Wellington himself. While we see Rock for nearly all the scenes, only a few times do we get a perspective of the actual Wellington. The Rock thing is fine, but if we got more shots of people looking at Wellington and more perspective there, it would have been better. More of the actual heaven would have been good too.

The acting here is great, but not enough to save the movie. Rock is his usual fun and energetic self, while Regina King as his love interest is suitable. Mark Addy has a small role which is fun, as well as Eugene Levy and Chaz Palminteri as angels. Greg Germann and Jennifer Coolidge are show up. All of these actors are good in their roles despite their overall short screentime, but the main problem I had with all of them is that there characters had a lot of potential but were vastly underdeveloped. The likeable Frankie Faison also shows up, and he's quite good.

Overall, considering the talent involved and a good, though reused premise, "Down To Earth" is a very disappointing remake. Sure you'll laugh once or twice, but the script has many flaws that simply can't be overlooked. It's a mediocre rental, but die hard Chris Rock fans should check it out.

Paramount has delivered a fine 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with "Down To Earth" that should please everyone. Colors and fleshtones are nicely saturated, but I found contrast to be a little bit high at times and the image showed up soft at times as well. Blemishes and dirt are all over the print, and only when they pop up in good amounts they are distracting. Black levels are deep and solid, and detail is pretty good. There is also a little but of shimmering in some scenes as well as the whole "halo" effect with some characters in some scenes too. Overall though, this is another solid Paramount transfer.

The DVD features a Dolby Digital 5.1 track in English, and I thought it was pretty impressive for the source material. The music that's played lights up the speakers nicely with good dynamics. Fidelity is high and .1 LFE extension is very good. The sounds of heaven bring a good atmosphere while other smaller sounds pack their own punch. Surround use is decent but not overused. Dialogue is clear and crisp, no muffling or overpowering from other sounds. A good mix for the movie that should please. English and French Dolby Surround tracks are also included, plus English closed captions and subtitles.

Not much here. The Theatrical Trailer is presented in non-anamorphic letterbox and two channel sound, and there's also Down To Earth: A Look Inside, a series of cast and crew interviews that are a little promotional. The interviews feature Chris Rock, Paul Weitz, Chris Weitz, Wanda Sykes, Regina King, Chaz Palminteri and Eugene Levy. Basically, they talk about the movie, working on it, casting choices and a little comparison to "Heaven Can Wait", which is a nice touch (and has some clips from that movie). It's a good little featurette that fans of the movie should enjoy. There is some behind the scenes footage and clips from the movie as well. Kudos again to Paramount for providing English subtitles with this.

I remember reading the original press release that said a commentary with the Weitzes would be included, as well as deleted scenes. None of that here.

"Down To Earth", unfortuantley, is a very disappointing movie. Still, Paramount has provided a good presentation for the movie, but the extras are lackluster. Die hard fans of the movie only.

(3/5 - NOT included in final score)




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