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Down To Earth

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 9, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

"Down To Earth" was released earlier this year to mostly negative reviews, yet it went on to do over 60 million dollars at the box office. This signals a few things - Chris Rock's star is on the rise, and deservedly so; the film was well-marketed, with funny trailers; and maybe, the film wasn't that bad after all. Is it award worthy? Uh, no. Is it going to be remembered years from now? Probably not. But does it tell a good natured, sweet story with a few solid jokes now and then? Sure does.

Rock plays struggling comedian and delivery carrier Lance Barton. He's funnier off-stage then he is on, where he almost always freezes up and frequently gets booed right off the stage at the Apollo on amateur night. After a particularly bad set, he's riding his bike down the street when he sees Sontee Jenkins (Regina King). Unfortunately, while checking her out, Lance gets checked out as a truck runs right into him. (See, the movie is like a Public Service Announcement. Only check out women while walking - when driving, keep both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.)

Unfortunately, Lance has been taken by Keyes (Eugene Levy) a tenth of a second too early. Faced with this fact, his boss King (Chazz Palmenteri) takes Lance back and although he can't give Lance his body back, he gives him a choice of bodies, none of which really work for him. He comes upon one Charles Wellington, a 53 year old rich white male, who has just been killed by his wife (Jennifer Coolidge) and assistant (Greg Germann), who are rather stunned when he comes into the room minutes later. The subplot about the two having an affair is one of the duller elements. They see what Wellington looked like; we see Rock. Sontee Jenkins comes back into his life as Wellington since she is protesting his closing of a hospital. Lance as Wellington wants to make something better out of his life while being Wellington so he begins to turn things around and romance Sontee. It's a credit to the chemistry of Rock and King that their romance actually works and develops decently within an 87 minute running time.

True, the film doesn't provide the kind of sharp, fast humor that Rock can work well with (as seen in some of his terrific stand-up shows), but there are a few funny moments scattered throughout the movie. For example, as Wellington, Lance is talking in front of the hospital he was about to close and turns to a patient standing with an IV and says, "Now save me a sip, I wanna sip now!" The speech to the press right after is one of the movie's highlights, as well. It's an example of lively, energetic Rock. It's also an example of why this picture really didn't have to be brought down to a PG-13. I think it's a film with adult or late teen appeal, anyways and I don't see why it couldn't have gone all the way to the R-rating.

The movie also feels a little too thin at 87 minutes; although I certainly think that this film couldn't sustain a two hour running time, it also feels like material has been deleted. Directed by the Weisz Brothers ("American Pie"), the duo also share a trait with the Farrelly Brothers ("There's Something About Mary") in the fact that they don't exactly have an eye for visuals, helped (not much) again here by cinematographer Richard Crudo (who also worked on "Pie"). Again, the one cinematographer who really stands out in my mind who can make comedy visually stylish is Theo Van De Sande ("Cruel Intentions").

While I didn't feel "Down To Earth" was necessarily a bad movie, it still remains a rather unfortunately unremarkable one, given the talent involved. Rock really has more talent and potential than shown here - it still seems like he's waiting for his breakout success - a movie that offers him sharper, edgier humor that he can really run wilder with, instead of walking through efforts like "Down To Earth".


VIDEO: Ever since "Save The Last Dance" I've noticed an improvement over Paramount's already fine work in terms of image quality. Their presentations seem more well-defined, crisper and cleaner. "Down To Earth" does again show a mostly fine looking image throughout the movie, but I was suprised to see a few more flaws that I was expecting. Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Earth" offers excellent sharpness and detail; the movie looked consistently well-defined and crisp, occasionally with decent depth to the image.

Unfortunately, the picture did run into some trouble now and then. Some slight marks on the print used occasionally were visible. Not anything major, but I was suprised to see the few I did see on such a new movie. There were also some hints of edge enhancement as well as a couple of traces of pixelation during some of the scenes. These problems are noticeable, but not major or hugely distracting. Yet, they keep an otherwise strong presentation from being excellent.

Colors looked flawless throughout, appearing well-rendered and nicely saturated. Flesh-tones also appeared natural and accurate, and the image appeared otherwise pleasing. This is a good effort, but had those flaws been absent, it would have made it a finer looking image.

SOUND: "Down To Earth" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Like most of the comedies releases today, the picture keeps the great majority of the sound coming from the front speakers. Surrounds do pop in a couple of times throughout the movie, mainly to re-inforce the music, though. Speaking of the music, it was wonderful to hear Lauryn Hill's "Everything is Everything" in surround sound. A great piece of music, the song is used nicely as various points throughout the picture. There's a few other slight surround effects sprinkled in at various points, but this remains a pretty low-key "comedy-style" sound mix.

Audio quality seemed fine throughout. The rap music brought in some decent, if suprisingly not that heavy, bass. Dialogue sounded clear as well, with no scenes that had an "edgy" or "strained" quality.

MENUS:: Paramount has offered more animated menus lately and "Down To Earth" recieves a nicely animated main menu, with images of the characters zipping on-screen and then off.

EXTRAS:: The only extras are a fairly enjoyable 10 minute set of interviews with cast and crew where they discuss the film's history and working with each other as well as the theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts: I thought "Down To Earth" was a basically enjoyable, harmless movie that was good-natured and occasionally funny. Yet, it certainly could have gone a different way and been an edgier, sharper picture which Rock certainly could have carried quite well. Paramount's DVD offers good audio/video, but comes up a little short on supplements.

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