Father Knows Least

chris__rock.jpgAccording to the statistics showcased on divorcepeers.com, 1 in 20 husbands have admitted to cheating on their wives. On the distaff side, it's 1 in 22. As for the number of men who take off their wedding rings when they leave the apartment without their wives, it's 1 in 3, while the percentage of men caught in their infidelities registers in at 80%.

Wait a second! The New York Times reports higher figures. How about 21 percent of men and 13 percent of women have copulated with a third party!

Interviewed by The Times on this sultry matter, Tom W. Smith of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago notes, "Infidelity is more common among residents of large central cities, among those who attend church less often, among those who have been divorced, among people unhappy with their marriages, and among blacks compared to whites."

Ah, blacks get it again. Those sexual creatures! Sadly, I missed out on the era when Jews were considered "exotic beings." After all how many porn stars ever bear Jewish names? Do you ever see a Moshe or a Gittel in the credits of your favorite Happy Endings DVD? If you want to get someone off nowadays, opt for an Italian moniker or be black.

Which brings us to actor/director/co-writer/co-producer Chris Rock's latest endeavor to hit the screen, I Think I Love My Wife, a paean to black monogamy, which surprisingly is based upon Eric Rohmer's Chloe in the Afternoon (1972). That's sort of like saying Married . . . with Children was inspired by Boccaccio's Decameron.

Chloe was the sixth of Rohmer's Moral Tales, a slight yet enjoyable romp about a married man's growing fascination with a kooky young woman. Rock's take on the matter, however, never catches fire, mainly because he has miscast himself as the hapless romantic hero.

This is a misstep by an otherwise continually superb comic who's inarguably up there with America's top political humorists. His riff on gun control alone, which can be seen in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine (2002), is one of the funniest, wisest moments on celluloid of the past decade.

Accordingly, Rock's highly developed persona is that of a loudmouth, streetwise, deliciously abrasive thorn in society's ass. Yet here he's trying to play Richard Cooper, a successful investment banker who's brought in over $20 million to his company, Pupin & Langford. Cooper's rewards for his financial attainments include a house in suburbia, a beautiful teacher/wife (Gina Torres), two adorable children, and B-O-R-E-D-O-M.

Yes, the sameness of every day plus the sexual indifference of his spouse are throwing him for a loop. Too bad Cooper hadn't heard the sound advice of the master of matrimony, Bill Cosby, who once stated, "A husband should go with the flow of his marriage, even when that flow leads over a cliff."

Cooper, though, is resisting that flow, especially when Nikki (Kerry Washington), an old friend's ex, shows up at his office door in cleavage-revealing attire. Suddenly, our hero is considering adultery.

"Will he or won't he score?" is the question asked for most of I Think I Love My Wife, but you won't care because nothing is believable about Cooper. A role that would have been perfect for a young Cosby is capsized by Rock, who has his financial wizard breaking into "ghetto" chatter every few minutes. Numerous "fucks" and other "street" lingo (Cooper's spouse has to reprimand him for using "nigga" in front of the kids) do not meld with Cooper's reality. He neither thinks, looks, walks, nor dresses as his character should. (Nerdy glasses, ill-fitting suits, and a dark raincoat that is definitely déclassé? Read Dress for Success.) With wealth comes lighter outerwear. Will someone defrock costume designer Suzanne McCabe, who should be dressing windows for Wal-Marts?

There's no doubt that if a white had dreamed up this project, it would have assuredly been deemed racist. Rock seems to be unintentionally arguing that a black male of any economic class will still go through life with the thought and speech patterns of an uneducated juvenile delinquent who's ready for lockup on Law and Order.

On the other hand, there is something delightfully endearing about Rock blissfully defending marriage as a sacred institution. His stance is that the union between two folks in love, no matter how seldom they screw, supplies a brand of happiness that is much more potent that a quick shag in the hay with a goddess. Be faithful. Be a real man. Keep it zippered up.

With that refreshing concept in hand, if Rock had a little less ego here and a little more insight, he could have wound up with a grand romantic comedy instead of a poorly directed, unevenly written, awkwardly acted collage of affronting mediocrity that does include a funny bit about priapism. - Brandon Judell

brandon

Mr. Judell, who's currently teaching "The Image of the Jew in Post-World War II European Cinema" at City College, has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, and dozens of other publications.

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