After 2003’s Head of State
, Rock returns to directing with his sophomore effort, a remake of the Eric Rohmer film Chloe in the Afternoon
. Comparing the two filmmakers is at best a ridiculous endeavor. A onetime editor of Cahiers du Cinéma
and French New Wave filmmaker, Rohmer is known for his meditations on triviality that break open the human experience with comic pathos. Onetime SNL
regular, Rock is known as the voice of a zebra in Madagascar
. Although I’m actually a Chris Rock fan, it wasn’t easy to enjoy this unfunny mess. While Rohmer’s film is a subtle, stylish meditation on identity and marriage, Rock’s effort is about as subtle as a loud fart during morning mass. Husband and proud father of two Richard (Rock) and his goal-oriented wife, Brenda (Torres), suffer from a caged, bourgeois existence whereby trips to Costco and weekend brunches replace intimacy and romance. As a result, the über-frustrated Richard fantasizes about nearly every woman he sees, particularly during his daily work commute to Manhattan. But aside from his sexless marriage, obsessive fantasies, and wandering eye, Richard’s life is as right as rain. Then the gorgeous and teasing Nikki (Washington) wanders into his office. An “old friend,” Nikki’s character is about as well developed as a Playboy
centerfold. In need of help, she starts visiting Richard at work, and the two reignite a platonic friendship, while Richard finds himself lying to his wife and fantasizing more about Nikki. As in all morality tales, everything eventually comes to a head, and Richard must decide where his allegiances lie. Kudos to Rock for making a modern-day film that actually endorses family and responsibility, but the movie is neither stylistically innovative nor particularly entertaining. In fact, Nikki is so annoying that it’s hard to believe Rock’s character is a big enough dolt to actually sacrifice his life so much to her manipulations. The reality of marriage, commitment, temptation, and routine are all ripe subjects for modern-day comic drama. But in the hands of co-writers Rock and Louis C.K. (HBO’s canceled Lucky Louie
), the movie becomes a weak rethinking of a quality film.