What is it about one of the most ferociously inventive comedians of his generation that, when it comes to his movie choices, he's only interested in going where someone else has gone before? ---
There's no denying Chris Rock's bona fides when it comes to stand-up comedy. The man is brilliant: A knockout performer and keenly insightful writer. But if you only knew him from his movie roles, you'd never guess it. The guy has been downright timid, and there's no better evidence of that than how often he has stepped into remakes. In 2001, it was for a third re-working of Here Comes Mr. Jordan and Heaven Can Wait called Down to Earth. In 2007, his I Think I Love My Wife was a remake of Eric Rohmer's Chloe in the Afternoon. And his new movie Death at a Funeral (due April 16) is a remake of the 2007 British film of the same name -- which was actually directed by an American (Frank Oz) in English, which makes it one of the oddest choices for a remake in recent years. Even something as ostensibly "original" as 2003's Head of State -- which had the thoroughly unbelievable premise of a black man being elected president -- felt like something from Fish Out of Water 101.
Hollywood moviemaking is a broad-appeal business, so it's not shocking when any film project opts for familiarity and the whiff of prior success. But it's particularly depressing to see people with the ability to make something fresh resorting to regurgitating someone else's original ideas. Maybe that's what you feel you need to do when you're a joke-teller less experienced at putting together a narrative. Or maybe that's just the deadening spore that infects once-edgy stage performers-turned-movie stars (see: Williams, Robin).