Director: Chris Rock | 95 minutes | comedy | Actors: Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dylan Baker, Nick Searcy, Lynn Whitfield, Robin Givens, Tamala Jones, James Rebhorn, Keith David, Stephanie March, Robert Stanton, Jude Ciccolella, Nate Dogg, Ed Wheeler, Kirk Penberthy, Gammy Singer, Ned Eisenberg, Reg. E. Cathey,
Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock) is in a slump. He has just done a good deed in rescuing a cat from a building that is about to be demolished, but speaking out on television about the house’s demolition pans, he is not making a good turn with the mayor. He is therefore in danger of being fired as a district councilor in Washington D.C.
To make matters worse, his girlfriend (Robin Givens) also leaves him because she is dissatisfied with his performance in the political world.
Depressed, Mays is walking the streets of Washington when suddenly picked up by someone from the Democratic Party. He is told that the party wants to introduce him as the new presidential candidate, as the old one has died suddenly.
What he doesn’t know is that they are electing him because they have already assumed they will lose the election and no one else wants to borrow his face for it. The campaign employees therefore do their best not to let Mays win, while Mays sees this situation as a golden opportunity to profile itself and goes for the victory.
This potentially funny “Head of State” story was co-written by Chris Rock. Because Rock wanted to ensure that his ideas were also properly portrayed, he also took the direction in his own hands. But what his ideas about the story were exactly is unfortunately not clear in the film. It seems like Rock couldn’t make a choice about the tone of the film.
In general, it is a comedy with a lot of over-the-top humor. As brothers, Mays and Mitch regularly give each other a few heavy blows, Mitch (Bernie Mac), as a running mate, makes short work of nagging people by knocking them over and Mays is obsessively chased by his hysterical ex-girlfriend and shows up. the most impossible moments, because she suddenly starts to find Mays furiously attractive in his new position.
In between these jokes and gags, however, an attempt is also made to start a romance, and the writers try to expand their ideas on presidential campaigning and the social wrongs in the U.S. also to raise. With this they completely miss the point. The love element is barely fleshed out and seems to have been crammed in between the story, while the serious ideas of the writers are misplaced in a film that has so clearly nothing to do with reality with its jolly jokes.
Now there is nothing wrong with a comedy, in which every now and then a serious note is incorporated. However, a condition is that the various elements merge smoothly into each other and that a balance is achieved. This balance is missing in “Head of State”, so the scenes follow each other in an incoherent way. Perhaps that is why Chris Rock felt the need to insert short intermezzos in which rapper Nate Dog briefly ‘kick-starts’ us about the state of affairs so far, where as a viewer you wonder with slight surprise whether you are suddenly watching a musical.
While it is clear from the film that Chris Rock certainly has a good sense of humor, most of the jokes don’t get across well, as they are repeated one after the other in different versions and completely milked out. As a stand-up comedian, Rock almost seems desperate for a response from his audience and hopes they’ll understand the joke when he retells it a few more times.
Robin Givens, however, manages to portray her role in a comical way. She enjoys herself as May’s hysterical ex-girlfriend who keeps coming back without being asked. While she’s actually terribly annoying, you can keep chuckling about it, especially since Mays is always acutely calling out to his security, who then takes her away screaming and kicking.
Overall, the film is primarily a missed opportunity. The foundation of interesting ideas and fun jokes has been laid in the film, but the story lacks the quality of a good structure. Perhaps Chris Rock will have to give himself more time in the sequel to work out his ideas better before he portrays them as a director and we can expect a very nice film from him in the future.