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"Head of State" Movie Review
A Vote for Impeachment

Bernie Mac and Chris Rock in "Head of State."
©2003 DreamWorks Pictures - All Rights Reserved

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Heavy sigh as I ponder where to start. Okay, this is it: taken separately, Chris Rock and Bernie Mac are two terrifically funny actors. But put them together and there's not much funny going on. They seem to have stepped through some comedy-sucking portal, leaving the resulting product of their collaboration - “Head of State” - empty, lifeless and flat.

It could be that performing together was too comfortable and so neither actor worked on yanking anything special out of the other's performance. It's hard to explain how two such sharp comics could appear essentially uninspired when bouncing lines off of each other. Of course, a lot of that could have to do with the fact that the characters they play are mere cardboard cutouts, without any real depth. Still, actors can, and do, rise above the material, just not in this particular case.

“Head of State” marks actor/comedian Chris Rock's directorial debut. Rock also co-wrote the script with Ali LeRoi (“Down to Earth”). I believe this is one of those cases where the writer was too invested in the project. If Rock had been offered this script from a third party, I'm betting he would have twisted it and tweaked it into something more snappy and original. What ends up on screen is sapped of its energy, hardly what you'd expect from a man whose stand-up act had such a sharp edge to it. The movie deals with politics and race, but it fails to decide what it stands for or just what it's trying to satirize.

Chris Rock stars as Mays Gilliam, a Washington D.C. alderman who fights daily battles to protect his run-down neighborhood and its hard-working people. After rescuing a woman and her cat from a building about to be destroyed, Gilliam comes to the attention of powerful people looking for a new candidate to support for office. What office? That would be the office of The President of the United States. After the initial shock, Gilliam dives into the campaign, selecting his older brother Mitch (Bernie Mac) as his running mate. Tamala Jones co-stars as the woman Mays Gilliam would love to make his First Lady.

“Head of State” is definitely a big disappointment. Coming out at a time when audiences (particularly American audiences) need a good laugh, “Head of State” serves up sloppy plotlines without much conviction and relies on scenes of Bernie Mac slapping random people, rich elderly white people doing the Electric Slide, and other equally improbable situations, to illicit a few scattered laughs. After 1 1/2 hours of ineffective campaigning, “Head of State” did nothing to get my vote.

Overall Grade: C-

"Head of State" is rated PG-13 for language, some sexuality and drug references.

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