Making the Grades
Saturday Night Live comedian Chris Rock stars as Lance Barton, a fictitious African-American stand-up comedian who only wants two things: To reign supreme at the classic Harlem Apollo Theater Amateur Night contest, and get the attention of Sontee (Regina King), the girl he adores. But just when things begin to go his way, he forgets to look twice before crossing the street.
Getting hit by a truck wasn't in Lance's act, nor was it on the agenda in heaven. Apparently Mr. Keyes (Eugene Levy), the man responsible for bringing people "home" to heaven on time, was a little too early when he decided to take Lance's spirit from the accident site. Appealing the mistake to Keyes' boss, Mr. King (Chazz Palminteri), Lance manages to get a second chance--now he just needs a new body. Seeking a temporary alternative, King offers the body of Charles Wellington, a rich healthcare tycoon who has just been murdered by his two-timing wife and her lover. Lance is reluctant to accept the situation until Sontee walks in and demands to see Wellington about a hospital closure.
While we (the audience) usually see Lance as he really is, the rest of the world sees an old white guy driving a Rolls while grooving to the latest hip-hop and rap tunes. With his associates totally confused by his personality change, and his wife wondering why the poison didn't take, there is great potential to not only generate comedy, but also provide enlightenment into racial prejudice. This is especially true when Lance continues to explore his stand-up routine of jokes poking fun at black life while wearing a white man's body.
While this aspect of Down to Earth provides some important lessons to young viewers, many other elements, including sexual moments between Wellington's wife and her boyfriend, frequent profanities, and comic violence illustrating how people die, make this anything but a heavenly experience. Some viewers may also take exception to the movie's religious philosophies.
Based on the 1978 movie Heaven Can Wait, it's unfortunate the creators included so many content concerns for families in this reincarnated title.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Down To Earth.
Much of Down to Earth revolves around the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. In the movie, it’s stated that the theater is closing. Is Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater really going down for the last time? Actually, the real story is the Apollo’s resurrection: http://afgen.com/harlem.html
What is Harlem like today? Read about one woman’s experiences at the following web site: http://www.salon.com/june97/wanderlust/postmark970617.html