TIFF 2014: Chris Rock Stars In, Writes, Directs TIFF's Hottest Comedy

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Some of the funniest men and women on the planet have skipped across the border to attend this year's Toronto International Film Festival: Jon Stewart (who is unveiling his freshman directorial effort Rosewater), Adam Sandler (who appears in no fewer than three films), Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell (who produced Wiig's latest comedy, Welcome to Me), Ben Stiller (who stars in director Noah Baumbach's latest film, While We're Young), Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent) and Steve Carell (who gives a chilling dramatic performance in Foxcatcher).


The best and freshest comedy at this year's TIFF, though, came from Chris Rock, who directs and stars in Top Five, an irreverent, heartfelt film that could easily be dubbed a 21st Century Annie Hall. The buzz started to build quickly following the premiere of Top Five at TIFF and within hours, Paramount Pictures won what Hollywood Reporter called "a frenzied bidding war" to distribute the film. It's the best thing Chris Rock has done, by far, and co-stars Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, Sherri Shepherd, Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler. It also contains the funniest scene involving a bottle of hot sauce ever in a film. I'm still laughing just thinking about it.


Ever since her smash hit Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig has been looking to mine comedy gold again, and Welcome to Me is her second best effort. It's not the greatest comedy of all time, but it includes some pretty good laughs. Here, Wiig plays a California lottery winner who is clearly off her meds and is surrounded by people who are more than happy to tell her what she wants to hear—that includes letting her host her own two-hour talk show ... with no guests. It's just Wiig, rambling about anything swirling through her brain, some of which is is inappropriately hilarious. The name of the talk show is Welcome to Me, of course.


Writer-director Noah Baumbach is a favorite at TIFF. He was here in 2012 for one of my favorites, Frances Ha; and he has received great acclaim for other festival hits such as The Squid and the Whale and Greenberg, where he successfully teamed up with Ben Stiller. Baumbach and Stiller have re-teamed for their latest effort, While We're Young and fans of the two will particularly like this one. Stiller co-stars with Naomi Watts as a childless couple who have less and less in common with other couples their age. Stiller and Watts gravitate to a 20-something couple played by Amanda Seyfried and white-hot comic actor Adam Driver, who want nothing more than to be like the older couple. It's a grass-is-greener fable, but with Baumbach in charge, it has the right amount of quirk and bite.