According to the opening credits of Chris Rock’s latest directorial effort, this farce about a frustrated husband (Rock) tempted by the come-ons of a curvy female friend (Washington) was inspired by Eric Rohmer’s Chloe in the Afternoon (1972). Okay, so the film-fanatic comedian likes one of the French auteur’s “Moral Tales” (though, in the spirit of equal time, the former Cahiers du Cinma critic must now remake Pootie Tang), but given what follows, you wonder why Rock singled out that particular parable on pent-up males. Why no tip of the hat to Billy Wilder’s smirking, smutty 1955 sex comedy, The Seven Year Itch, or a shout-out to the arrested-adolescent fantasies of HBO’s The Mind of the Married Man, both of which cast equally long shadows over Rock’s retrograde romp? And how come there’s no footnote that states the premise actually springs from one of his best stand-up routines, about the push-pull between domestic stability and the allure of “new pussy”?
Whatever Rock’s reasons for not spreading the love, it’s painfully clear that name-dropping an art-house film doesn’t mean you’ve made something profound, and stretching a highly quotable bit from your club act to feature length doesn’t mean you’ve constructed a funny movie. Occasionally, the comedian’s manic wit produces a great line (“I go out with one white woman, and suddenly I’m Prince?”), but the majority of the gags play like slightly blue versions of borscht-belt shtick. Viagra jokes, I-have-a-headache rebuffs, a sequence devoted to the humiliation of buying condoms at a pharmacy...c’mon, Chris, you can do better than that. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear