MOVIE”Down to Earth”? Shame on You, Chris Rock

He was great in “Lethal Weapon Four.” He was hilarious as the 13th apostle in “Dogma.” And he weren’t half bad in “Nurse Betty” either. But even with his pearly white smile and in-your-face humor, Chris Rock couldn’t save “Down to Earth,” which should have really been Straight-to-Video.

In “Down to Earth,” Rock stars as Lance Barton, a comedian who just can’t seem to be funny on stage. All he wants to do is play the Apollo one last time, before it closes its doors forever.

But he dies instead; a disappointing turn of events for our young protagonist, to say the least.

Fortunately, the guys upstairs acknowledge their mistake and offer to get Lance a new body. Unfortunately, the only one handy is a mean, fat, greedy, crusty old white man named Charles Wellington. Lance sees himself, but everyone else sees Wellington. Suffice it to say, the antics of Chris Rock just don’t mesh with the situation he’s in.

The uproarious high jinx of a black man trapped in a white man’s body ensues but can’t seem to hold water very long. They just had to screw it up with a love story. Without the clichés about “the one” and other trite observations about soul mates, this movie could have been very good. But constantly hearing leading lady Regina King say, “There’s just something about your eyes,” makes one regretful for not going to see “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” instead.

It’s sickeningly cheap writing that killed this movie. The idea was interesting, but they should have spent more time in the editing process because it comes off incredibly weak.

To its credit, “Down to Earth” does acknowledge the differences between the races and plays up the humor of certain prejudices. When Lance-as-Wellington starts rapping along to DMX at an ice cream shop in Brooklyn, some of the less appreciative patrons express their disapproval, and Lance awakens on the pavement.

“Down to Earth” features a number of familiar character actors in supporting roles, but their names are usually a mystery to the masses. Overall, none of them did an outstanding enough job to be mentioned anyway.

Basically, this is a movie to exploit Rock’s racial humor, which is usually very observant, raw, and honest. However, you’ll get more for your money when you rent “Bigger and Blacker” or “Bring the Pain.” His usual biting wit was obviously watered down in “Down to Earth” to make it more palatable for what is assumed is the general public’s taste.

For Chris Rock fans, “Down to Earth” will be the funniest movie you’ve ever hated. The movie is BAD, but Rock exudes an enormous amount of positive energy, and he is naturally funny, no matter how wretched the script, so it’s hard not to laugh out loud.

For the in-betweeners, stick with “The Chris Rock Show” and his other movies. And for those who aren’t fans: STAY AWAY. You will probably be pissed off the whole time.