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‘Head of State’ campaigns for high comedy

“Head of State” was funny as hell. It may just have been the people I went with, because not all of the audience was laughing quite as hard as the group I was with. “Head of State” is not a perfect movie and it has a couple of jokes that are a little overdone, but overall it was a light satire that reflected where some elections of the past have brought us and where some elections of the future may bring us.

Mays Gilliam (Chris Rock) is a Washington D.C. alderman who tries to make a difference in the poorer neighborhoods of the capital. After a freak accident in which the presidential and vice presidential nominees’ planes crash into each other, an unidentified party is left without a candidate. Senator Bill Arnot (James Rebhorn) is the party’s first choice, but he feels he can’t win so close to the election date.

As head of the party, Arnot decides that they should do something really radical to pull in more voters for the election. The party decides to run Mays, a man of the people, to win the minority vote for future elections.

Mays’ life is already in the dumps when the government comes calling for him. He has been fired from his job, he loses his car and his crazy girlfriend Kim (Robin Givens) dumps him because he’s going nowhere in life.

Mays Gilliam begins to run a campaign under Debra Lassiter (Lynn Whitfield), a Condoleezza Rice-like character. The party also hires a superwhore, Nikki (Stephanie March) who will gladly sleep with any man to cause a political scandal.

Mays struggles through the early part of the campaign, not saying what he wants to say and sounding like any other politician. He gets advice from his brother Mitch Gilliam (Bernie Mac) to speak to the people about the problems as he really sees it.

Finally, Mays begins to run his own campaign, and declares Mitch his running mate. They are up against tough competition – Brian Lewis (Nick Searcy) has been vice-president for eight years, is a war hero and is Sharon Stone’s cousin. Lewis lives by the motto “God Bless America – and no place else,” and seems to be a chilling mix of former vice-president Al Gore and president George W. Bush.

A lot of the elements in this movie worked, such as the combination of Chris Rock and Bernie Mac. The relationship between Chris Rock and love interest Lisa Clark (Tamala Jones) was also believable. Most of the other minor characters, while stereotypical, were over-the-top in an entertaining way.

This film was directed and co-written by Chris Rock and I must say he did a wonderful job at poking fun of the election and campaigning process that so many Americans have become accustomed to.

The message of this movie, similar to the message of other election movies, is that America wants a candidate who doesn’t deliver bullshit.

As I walked out of the movie, I was saddened because that’s all we ever get from our political candidates, and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. But I still had to smile for a movie that was in no way perfect, but in every way humorous.

Bottom line: If Chris Rock ran for president, I would vote for him.


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