Chris Rock returns to theaters this weekend with "Top Five," a film deemed Oscar worthy by many early reviews.

Not even close.

Rock stars as Andre Allen, a movie star trying to leave comedy behind for more serious projects. Only no one thinks he should, and even he has doubts he can make the switch. Here’s why the mediocre comedy is nothing more than awards season filler.

  1. Chris Rock Isn’t a Movie Star: Yes, Rock stars in movies, but there’s a difference. You can see it every time he shares the screen with Rosario Dawson, an ebullient actress playing the reporter quizzing him for a major newspaper profile. She lights up the screen in ways Rock can’t. Only when Rock’s character plays a comedy club do we see Rock’s charisma come to life. And Rock may be the least convincing drunk you’ll ever see on screen.
  2. Kate Hudson, Call Your Agent: “Top Five” is a rom-com at heart, and structurally it’s no better than many of the recent duds from Hudson’s ill-advised canon. The film features a poorly designed plot twist meant to keep the main characters apart and wastes precious screen time setting up a joke that isn’t worth the bother. Hint: it involves a rectal surprise.
  3. Cameos Steal the Show: Front-loading a film with big-time cameos can be smart. It adds a jolt to a film while giving audiences a sense of surprise. In “Top Five,” Tracy Morgan, Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart and others steal their tiny moments, but then you’re left with a narrative that simply lacks fire.
  4. More Navel Gazing: Writers write what they know, but there’s something dispiriting about Rock crafting a movie around being a celebrity whose biggest concern is bad reviews. Take the superior “Birdman” as the most recent navel gazing example. It takes a sophisticated storyteller to have these stories connect with the human condition, not just those who live in a Hollywood bubble. “Top Five” tries to achieve that, but it doesn’t close the deal.
  5. Chris Rock Is No Woody Allen: Rock maintains an understandable love for Allen’s work, and it’s clear with “Top Five” he’s trying to make his version of a “Woody Allen” film. That’s noble, and “Top Five” improves upon the tepid “Head of State” and “I Think I Love My Wife.” Having Rock’s character long to make more serious films draws a direct line to Allen’s “Stardust Memories.” Still, the bulk of Allen’s directorial efforts are more insightful, better structured and, of course, flat-out funnier than what Rock has to offer in “Top Five.”

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