‘Top Five’: Chris Rock and 4 more comics who jumped to the big screen
Chris Rock isn’t exactly a stranger to the big screen, having administered comic relief in such films as “Beverly Hills Cop 2" and “Lethal Weapon 4" to the “Grown Ups” and “Madagascar” movies. But the comedian’s latest film, “Top Five” (opening Dec. 12), marks his most personal and ambitious one yet.
“Top Five,” which Rock wrote, directed and stars in, tells the story of a stand-up performer turned comic superstar who’s trying to reinvent himself as a serious actor. As Rock himself and many of his contemporaries have experienced, making the leap from the comedy club to the big screen is no easy task. For every Billy Crystal or Eddie Murphy, there are many more who fall by the wayside.
Here’s a look at some recent stand-up stalwarts who have tried, with varying amounts of success, to make the transition.
Although Rock has starred in many movies over the course of his career, none have truly captured the essence of his biting brand of humor, nor have they resonated with audiences the way his stand-up has.
Stand-up, after all, is a very direct and personal medium, while filmmaking — particularly the studio variety — is a collaborative process that can sometimes sand down the rough edges that make someone like Rock uniquely entertaining.
Rock recently told The Times that of all his previous movies, “none of them felt like me from beginning to end. They felt like a sanitized version, honestly.” Time will tell whether his hands-on approach to “Top Five” pays off.
In the mid-2000s, Cook was one of the hottest comedians around: His 2005 album “Retaliation” went double-platinum and became the highest-charting comedy album in more than 25 years, and he sold out Madison Square Garden a handful of times with his manic frat-guy humor.
It was only a matter of time before Cook turned to movies, headlining comedies like “Employee of the Month,” “Good Luck Chuck” and “My Best Friend’s Girl” and trying darker fare with “Mr. Brooks” and “Answers to Nothing.” Alas, Cook’s movies have largely been shredded by critics and tuned out by mainstream audiences.
Ever since Robin Williams voiced Genie with madcap glee in Disney’s “Aladdin,” comedians have been a staple of animated movies. Oswalt got his turn in “Ratatouille,” voicing the culinarily inclined rodent at the center of the Oscar-winning Pixar movie.
Unlike many of his stand-up counterparts who have attempted serious roles, Oswalt has also earned fine notices for a dramatic performance, acting opposite Charlize Theron in the black comedy “Young Adult.”
While she has starred in her own eponymous TV series and published an autobiography, Silverman doesn’t seem to have set her sights on movie stardom. On film, she’s been content to mostly remain a supporting player, portraying an overbearing girlfriend in “School of Rock,” an alcoholic sister in “Take This Waltz,” a glitchy sprite in “Wreck-It Ralph” and a lady of the night in “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” among others.
If there’s one stand-up comedian who appears to have cracked the code to big-screen success, it’s Hart, who has parlayed his self-deprecating humor and strong social-media following to a string of box-office hits.
So far Hart has specialized in modestly budget buddy or ensemble comedies powered — but hopefully not overpowered — by his motormouthed antics. That formula has worked for such films as “Ride Along,” “About Last Night” and “Think Like a Man Too.” He’ll look to keep the streak going with “The Wedding Ringer,” “Get Hard” and “Ride Along 2.”
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