Down to Earth

Down to Earth (2001)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Chris Rock, Regina King, Chazz Palminteri
Extras: Featurette, Theatrical Trailer

During the featurette included on the DVD of Chris Rock’s latest film, ’Down to Earth’, one of the interviewees states that once we see the film, we’ll understand why they remade ’Heaven Can Wait.’ Well, I’ve seen ’Down to Earth’ and said enlightenment is still eluding me. This is yet another example where a perfectly good film is remade, while there are plenty of promising, yet mediocre films which should be revisited. As ’Heaven Can Wait’ (which itself was a remake of the 1941 film ’Here Comes Mr. Jordan’) was released 23-years ago, ’Down to Earth’ strives to bring the story to a new generation. Chris Rock stars as a struggling stand-up comic named Lance Barton. When Lance rides his bicycle into the path of an oncoming truck, angel Mr. Keyes (Eugene Levy) plucks Lance from the scene of the accident before the truck can hit him, and takes Lance to heaven. Once there, Lance pleads his case to Mr. King (Chazz Palminteri), who agrees to send Lance back to Earth, but in another body. Lance chooses to take over the body of white millionaire Charles Wellington, so that he may pursue Sontee Jenkins (Regina King), an activist who has been protesting Wellington’s business ventures. Once in Wellington’s body, Lance must make Sontee see past his outward appearance and fall in love with the man inside.

If you’re a fan of Rock’s stand-up act, you may like this film, otherwise, don’t bother. However, since a number of jokes are directly taken from his HBO show or in his act, fans may get bored as well. ’Down to Earth’ is never very funny, and the only true laughs come from ’The Chris Rock Show’ regular Wanda Sykes, who plays Wellington’s feisty maid. The film was directed by Paul and Chris Weitz, who were unable to recreate any of the synergy found in their previous hit ’American Pie’. ’Down to Earth’ is sluggishly paced, and as the film progresses, make less and less sense. While Rock is busy mugging for the camera, the comedic talents of Greg Germann and Jennifer Coolidge are wasted. Do yourself a favor and stick with the previous two versions of this film, or better yet, the compilations from Rock’s show.

While ’Down to Earth’ was disappointing, the DVD presentation is not. The film is presented in an anamorphic widescreen, and is letterboxed at 1.85:1. The image on this transfer is crystal clear, showing little grain and no noise or distortion. The colors, most notably the background lighting at the Apollo Theatre, are very impressive, showing a very nice spectrum of hues. The framing appears to be accurate, as there is no warping of the frame. Equally impressive is the Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack found on the DVD. This gives the viewer an exceptional surround sound display for a comedy, as the applause at the Apollo flow from every speaker (giving the ’You Are There!’ feel). The rap music which dominates the soundtrack will have your subwoofer working overtime. Of course, these goodies never drown out the dialogue and the track is free from any distortion.

Thin on extras, the ’Down to Earth’ DVD offers a 10-minute featurette entitled ’Down to Earth: A Look Inside’, containing a balanced amount of film clips and interviews but doesn’t give much insight into the making of the film.