Chris Rock is a very funny man. Even when he hosted the Oscars, Rock showed a flair for comedic talent and improv that should transfer well to the big screen.
It's just too bad that no one told Chris Rock, the director.
In “I Think I Love My Wife,” Rock's second venture into directing, Rock the actor is barricaded in a script that really never allows his talents to be displayed. This remake of a 1970s French film does have some potential, but fans of Rock's standup who may be looking to see an extension of that comedy will be disappointed by a film that is mundane and content with going through the motions as its lead character.
Rock plays Richard Cooper, a workaholic family man who dreams of a better life, but is willing to just keep the status quo instead of doing something about it.
Richard's approach is tested when an ex-mistress of a former friend named Nikki (Kerry Washington) resurfaces, giving him a glimpse of what life could be like on the other side.
Soon Richard finds himself completely enthralled by Nikki, and the rest of his life begins to suffer, including work and his marriage to Brenda (Gina Torres), a school teacher with whom the sexual spark has long since been extinguished.
“I Think I Love My Wife” has a promising premise, but the film suffers from several fatal flaws.
For one, I was never able to identify with any character. Nikki is so obviously bad news that I had a hard time believing Richard couldn't see right through her. On the other end of the spectrum, Brenda comes off as too frigid and too controlling, so she isn't the obvious choice, either (when clearly she should be).
The other huge problem with “Wife” is that it's not really funny. Rock (who also co-wrote the screenplay) tries to add some humorous moments, but most come off as either crass and crude (a gag involving a side effect from Viagra seems like it belongs in another movie) or just plain weird (a musical number in the the final confrontation is completely out of place).
To their credit, the cast, which also includes Steve Buscemi as Richard's womanizing coworker, does a good job, considering the material given. It's just too bad that someone couldn't have stepped in and relieved Rock of some of his duties. Maybe then we could have gotten more than a glimpse of the gifted comic's abilities.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “Rocky Balboa” (B) - the surprisingly sentimental and charming final chapter (hopefully) of the “Rocky” series.
This installment returns to Rocky (Sylvester Stallone), the lovable underdog former heavyweight champion, long retired from the ring. Rocky is happy running his restaurant and sharing stories about his glory days, while grieving the death of his wife, Adrian.
But the fire to fight is re-ignited when ESPN runs a virtual fight that suggests that Rocky in his prime could beat the current champion, Mason “The Line” Dixon (played by light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver).
Since the virtual fight further tarnishes an already tainted public perception, Dixon's camp decides that their fighter and Rocky should square off in an exhibition.
Rocky reluctantly agrees, determined to make one final stand in the squared circle.
Fans of the “Rocky” series will be pleasantly surprised by this sixth installment. Stallone and his character are well past their primes, but instead of making the film totally preposterous, the film embraces that fact and uses it to create a movie that really captures the spirit of the first two films.
Stallone really hits an emotional chord, and you can sense that he wants to let his beloved character leave in a manner much more becoming than the dreadful “Rocky V” about 15 years earlier.
Tarver really doesn't have to do much, but he is fine as the protagonist.
I also like how the fight was staged. Yes, it is slightly impossible to think a nearly 60-year-old man could take that kind of punishment in the ring, but it does build to a logical (and in this case appropriate) conclusion.
“Rocky Balboa” doesn't stray too far from its familiar formula, but when the first chords of “Gonna Fly Now” hit during the training montage, it's pretty obvious that the familiarity only adds to the film's nostalgic charm.
“Rocky Balboa” is rated PG for boxing violence and some language and is now available on DVD.