HEAD OF STATE is Chris Rock, who directs, co-writes and stars in this high
concept comedy of a black alderman who is picked by the Democratic Party to
replace a presidential candidate who dies on the campaign trail. Putting the
slap back in slapstick, the movie is a mess, albeit sporadically a likable and
funny one. Although the film is frequently quite racially offensive, Rock's
demeanor is so charming that it's relatively easy to let its racism pass without
getting too riled. Typical of the jokes is one about a brand of malt liquor,
made by and marketed to blacks with the name of Crib Malt Liquor. The joke is
that the bottles really do come with baby nipples rather than bottle caps.
You're not laughing?
Rock plays a nobody named Mays Gilliam who is chosen to be the losing candidate
in the presidential race so that the Democrats can get brownie points with the
minority groups and then use their votes to win in the subsequent presidential
race. The first poll against Gilliam's Republican challenger, Vice President
Lewis (Nick Searcy), has Gilliam down by eighty-two percentage points. Lewis,
whose claim to fame is that he was a war hero and is Sharon Stone's cousin, has
a catchy campaign motto: "God Bless America: And No One Else!"
Gilliam's character suffers from a bad case of multiple personalities.
Sometimes he's a sweetheart, and other times he's pretty cruel. Sometimes he's a
pansy, and other times he's a hard-nosed politician with a demagogue's penchant
for cheap populism. And still other times, he's like the kindest next-door
neighbor that you could ever dream of. The script doesn't give his character
much of an arc, allowing him to flounder between states. The result is that you
never know if you're supposed to cheer for him, laugh at him, feel sorry for him
or resent his passive-aggressive racial bigotry.
When he isn't slapping someone, Bernie Mac plays a consistently funny character
named Mitch. Mitch is a bail bondsman, who brags, "Business is great! Thank
God for crime!" After Mitch becomes his brother's running mate, Mitch's talk
show interviews, full of "Alice in Wonderland" style double-talk, are
Most of the jokes in HEAD OF STATE fall flat, but, every time you start to give
up on the picture, it throws some delicious little zinger at you. My favorite
was the Democrat's new answer to their sex scandals. They have recruited and
trained a group of "super whores" who are available twenty-four hours a day to
their candidate. They even show these crosses between WWE divas and CHARLIE'S
ANGELS at their special boot camp. I'm still not exactly sure how learning to
crawl under barbed wire in the mud helps in training a professional sex worker,
but the possibilities are endless.
HEAD OF STATE runs 1:35. It is rated PG-13 for "language, some sexuality and
drug references" and would be acceptable for teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes