Head of State

It seems that Chris Rock has a very hit and miss affair when it comes to his film. Bad Company and Down to Earth didn’t do as well as expected at the Box Office (and don’t get me started on Pootie Tang), so his latest offering Head of State could have gone the same way, but luckily its an ideal vehicle for Rock’s biting social humour.

Good-hearted Washington alderman Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock) spends his days listening and trying to help the people in his neighbourhood. As a result, because he spends so much time with the people, he has never learnt how to play the political game so therefore has never risen to any higher positions in office.

Due to a freak accident, the two main presidential candidates manage to get themselves killed when their planes collide into each other (they shouldn’t have been using their mobile phones!). With no one to run for president, Senator Bill Arnot (James Rebhorn) decides that if he makes Mays run for office, then when he himself runs in four years time, the party would have more appeal to the minorities and working classes, which would enable him to win.

Mays, oblivious to the plan, is convinced to run for president and doesn’t realise the ulterior motive and is given two aides to help run his campaign – campaign manager Martin Geller (Dylan Baker) and advisor Debra Lassiter (Lynn Whitfield). Debra has been instructed by Arnot to make sure that Mays not only loses, but that he also gets a respectable amount of votes.

What Arnot and Debra never expected is that Mays is determined to do well and throws out all conventional presidential campaigning techniques and takes matters into his own hands. With a new motto, style and funk, Mays soon incorporates his own campaign, much to the chagrin of those around him. Unfortunately, his style means that no one is willing to become his running mate, so Mays recruits his brother, a bond bailsman, Mitch (the hilarious Bernie Mac) into the vacant position. With the support of Mitch and his new girl Lisa (Tamala Jones) Mays popularity soon increases with the unorthodox methods and open honesty.

Arnot soon realises that Mays might have a real chance of winning, and the idea of a president like Mays (and a vice-president like Mitch) is too much for him to handle. Can he sabotage Mays campaign before it’s too late?

Head of State is an ideal vehicle for the comedic talents of Chris Rock and even more so for the ever hilarious Bernie Mac. It captures the biting comedy that Rock showcased in his stand-up routines (albeit much watered down). Most of the cast are good in their respective roles, even if some, like Tamala Jones are slightly relegated to window dressing. Nick Searcy who plays Vice-president Brian Lewis and the main opponent of Mays is funny as the opposition’s presidential candidate – whose claim to fame includes being Sharon Stones cousin.

Robin Givens keeps popping up as Mays ex-girlfriend who dumps him as a loser, but then starts announcing about their relationship when she discovers that he might have a shot at being president – leading to numerous sketches of Mays yelling “SECURITY” and having her dragged off by the secret service.

Some moments are downright hilarious, especially when Mays decides to liven up a stuffy party by having a bunch of upper-class white people getting jiggy to some funky tunes. Just when the film begins to start getting a little stale, Rock manages to crowbar Bernie Mac into the second half giving it a much needed boost. Mac seems to steal every scene he’s in (and in every film that he’s in it seems) and it’s no surprise that his popularity has grown over the last few years.

On the whole Head of State is an enjoyable romp into the (shallow) end of political films. It marks the directorial debut of Chris Rock (who also wrote and produced the film) and it shows that he has good potential as a director. I’d prefer him to be president over George ‘Doubleya’ Bush any day of the week.

Score 6/10

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