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Down To Earth
review by Zach B.
Running Time: 87 minutes
Starring Chris Rock, Regina King, Mark Addy, Eugene
Levy, Frankie Faison, Greg Germann, Jennifer Coolidge and
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
Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, Dolby Digital
English 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround,
English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, Scene Selection
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
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
(2.5/5, NOT an average)