Chris Rock, still probably known better these days as part of the quartet of morons in Grown Ups or a voice from the huge Madagascar animated series, has two high-profile but only marginally films behind him as a director. There's 2003’s high-concept comedy < a href=http://www.cinemablend.com/reviews/Head-of-State-454.html>Head of State and 2007’s marital dramedy I Think I Love My Wife-- say what you will about them, but they're Rock's vision through and through, since he also wrote and starred in them. It’s worth noting that the more realistic of those two films was co-written by Louis C.K. (I Think I Love My Wife), whose amazing FX series Louie has featured Rock as himself in a couple of really enjoyable episodes. People may forget that C.K. wrote and directed 2001’s “still not quite cult classic” bizarro comedy Pootie Tang, which starred Rock and comedian J.B. Smoove…
…Which brings us to TheWrap’s news that film scene comedy Finally Famous, Rock’s next directing gig, landed a casting gold mine in Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm), The View’s Sherri Shepherd and comedian Kevin Hart, whom you may recognize from just about everything from his stand-up specials to This is the End. Too bad for fans, though, that he only has a cameo in the film, while the other two actors have larger roles.
Thanks to his previous two films and especially his collaborations with Adam Sandler, Kevin Smith and even Julie Delpy, Rock is already popular with cross-cultural mainstream audiences in a way that doesn't often happen with films featuring all-black casts (i.e. Tyler Perry's ouvre). Smoove, Hart and Shepherd have a whole lot of that same appeal. It’s no coincidence that these same three all starred together in last year’s highly successful comedy Think Like a Man, which made $91 million domestically off a $12 million budget-- way, way more than the romantic-themed with a largely white cast plus Chris Rock, What To Expect When You're Expecting, made a few weeks later. That spring, when Chris Rock was out promoting Madagascar 3 at Cinema Con, he said that Think Like A Man's box office opening was "not an only-black-people number. He continued, "The black audience is looking for movies, but this movie is really good. ... You can put anybody in a good movie. And this movie happened to have some black people in it." No wonder he wants to get three of the stars from that movie-- especially the breakout Kevin Hart-- on board for his next project.
This new film will star Rock as Andre, a recovering alcoholic comedian-turned-movie star trying to spin his career as a serious actor, and Smoove will play Andre’s security guard and assistant, always at his boss’ side. I can’t wait to see the chemistry Smoove and Rock have together, given Smoove’s immediate bonding with any actor he’s paired with. Hart will play Andre’s Ivy League agent. Shepherd is an ex-girlfriend back in Andre’s hometown who still wonders what might have been between the two.
Finally Famous also co-stars Gabrielle Union as Andre’s fiancée. A reality TV star, she’s credited with Andre’s sobriety, and she wants to film their wedding on her show, which Hart’s character is apparently all about. Rosario Dawson plays a journalist set to interview Andrew for a New York magazine. Likewise a former drinker in a steady relationship, she nonetheless woos Andre, and that’s where things probably get hectic.
Hart will be adding to the comedy in the DeNiro/Stallone comedy Grudge Match, while J.B. Smoove will next be seen in Larry David’s all-star HBO film Clear History.
No word yet on when the New York production will begin, but we’ll keep an eye out.