Bored Again

Heaven Can Wait, but hell can't, for Down to Earth

Worst of all, the entire film displays an unpalatable cowardice: It's a comedy about race that doesn't have the balls or brains to actually deal with the subject. We never understand why, as Wellington, Lance is funny. (In Heaven Can Wait, the audience never sees the borrowed body; here, we're given occasional glimpses of Wellington, though the actor who plays him is never mentioned in the press notes--as if he doesn't exist.) As Lance, Rock's a stuttering, sputtering performer; he trips over his own punch lines, when he has them at all. (That's the film's biggest twist: Joe Pendleton was a star about to play in the Super Bowl; Lance is a third-stringer likely to remain on the comedy-club bench.) But as Wellington, Lance kills--to the point he lands the Apollo gig Lance so desperately covets, though, inevitably, he must trade Wellington's body for yet another, which so happens to be one of the brothers on the Apollo bill that very night. (Please, like it's a surprise?)

Heaven on a stick: Eugene Levy, Chris Rock, and Chazz Palminteri wait in line to rent Heaven Can Wait.
Heaven on a stick: Eugene Levy, Chris Rock, and Chazz Palminteri wait in line to rent Heaven Can Wait.

The filmmakers have no problem showing us Wellington, but we never hear him, which mutes the joke; it's still Chris Rock shouting Chris Rock's material. The joke never comes off, especially when we see Wellington rapping along to DMX ("Niggaz wanna try, niggaz wanna lie/Then niggaz wonder why, niggaz wanna die") in a fast-food joint but hear it in Rock's voice. We're never allowed to buy into the movie's premise--that skin color doesn't matter, as long as there's soul beneath the surface--because the filmmakers don't go far enough. They pull up lame, so when Sontee and Lance finally kiss we don't buy it: She's making out with Chris Rock, not some white dude. There's no shock and no meaning; it's just a kiss, as empty and hollow as most in movies. Theirs is a romance, just as this is a movie, without any heart. Or soul.

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