A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has some raw humor that may be troubling or offensive to some audience members. A woman breaks up with her fiance by telling him that he is bad in bed and "I've had better sex with guys who have spina bifida." A beautiful woman on the candidate's staff is a prostitute hired to be available so that there will not be any sex scandals (though Mays turns her down). There are jokes about drinking and drugs (though Mays refuses to accept campaign contributions from a man who markets malt liquor to minors). There is a lot of hitting and slapping that is supposed to be comic and jokes about assassination attempts.
What's the story?
Chris Rock makes an appealing Presidential candidate in HEAD OF STATE, a comedy about Mays Gilliam, a Washington D.C. alderman who is thrown into the race after a plane crash kills the candidates for President and Vice President just weeks before the election. The idea is to use Mays as a placeholder so that one of the party regulars can be the candidate in 2008. At first, Mays does what he is told by the party's handlers. He wears a suit and tie and speaks in meaningless platitudes. Then he decides to be himself and speak from his heart and the voters begin to respond.
Is it any good?
Yes, it's a little bit Rocky and a little bit Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. And it's more than a little bit Chris Rock's stand-up routine. But his stand-up is pretty funny, and a lot funnier than his previous movies. This one, directed and co-written by Rock, is a real-life version of the story it tells. Rock is breaking away from what he had been told to do to succeed in Hollywood and just being himself, which makes this a nice way to spend 90 minutes.
The joke success to failure rate is above average, as Rock goes after men, women, whites, blacks, voters, and just about everyone and everything else. Thankfully, the movie avoids the easy "white people with no soul get taught how it's done by black people" clichés. I loved it when Mays abandoned his generic campaign ads and conservative suits in favor of gangsta-flava'd music-video-style spots and threads. It's a shame to waste Robin Givens by making her character a one-note shrieking harpy, and Rock cannot act at all, but he does get some able support from Lynn Whitfield and Dylan Baker as political advisors and Tamala Jones as the sweet girl he'd like as his first lady.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why what Mays says is so appealing to voters. His diagnoses of the problems may be right, but does he offer any solutions? When are we likely to have a black President, and who is it likely to be? What does it mean to "dress for the job you want?" Was it true that the options Mays had were limited because he had to represent the entire black race the way a white candidate would not? Why was Lisa's advice to "run your race" so important?
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