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Down to Earth

Down to Earth title card

Year - 2001
Studio - Paramount
Stars - Chris Rock, Regina King, Chazz Palminteri, Eugene Levy, Frankie Faison, Mark Addy, Gregg Germann, Jennifer Coolidge, Wanda Sykes, John Cho
Director - Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz
Writing Credits - Elaine May, Warren Beatty (screenplay Heaven Can Wait 1978), Chris Rock Lance Crouther, Ali LeRoi, Louis C.K.
Music - Jamshied Sharifi

Synopsis

Lance Barton (Chris Rock) is a bicycle messenger in New York City, but aspires to be a stand-up comedian. When he auditions at Harlem's Apollo Theater he freezes and is booed off the stage. Dejectedly riding his bicycle home, he is distracted by the sight of a beautiful woman and is struck by a truck and killed.

In Heaven, he argues with the head angel, King (Chazz Palminteri) that it has to be a mistake, which is confirmed by King's assistant, Keyes (Eugene Levy). He was not actually scheduled to arrive until 2044. They agree to let him return to Earth if a suitable body can be found - someone who has just died without anyone yet knowing about it. After Lance rejects several options, he agrees to inhabit the body of Charles Wellington, a billionaire tycoon just murdered by his wife (Jennifer Coolidge) and her lover, Sklar (Gregg Germann). As he is adjusting to his new identity, Sontee Jenkins (Regina King), the woman who Lance had been looking at when he was killed, shows up and handcuffs herself to a chair in protest of Wellington's plans to close down a Brooklyn hospital.

Down to Earth poster

Barton/Wellington is immediately attracted to Sontee and says he agrees with her complaints. He attends the hospital board meeting and, to the astonishment of its members, says that patients will be well taken care of, whether or not they have insurance. Sontee is impressed, but doesn't answer Wellington's many phone call invitations to go out with him. But sensing, in his eyes, that there is a different person than his outward persona presents, she relents. Wellington, still determined to be a comedian, auditions again at the Apollo where he, as a balding, middle-aged white man, is a huge success.

The angels, King and Keyes, arrive and inform Lance that the Wellington body was only temporary, and that he must now go into a new body. As Lance is dealing with this news, he is murdered by a sniper, hired by the corrupt hospital directors, The angels have selected for Lance's new body that of Joe Guy, another comedian, who is about to die in a car accident. Lance is distressed when they warn that he will have no memory of his previous identities, Barton or Wellington. He performs at the Apollo as Joe Guy and, leaving, encounters Sontee. Neither has any recognition for the other, except for a vague sense that they have met previously. They leave together.

Show Spoilers

Down to Earth is a remake of 1978's Heaven Can Wait, not to be confused with the 1943 film blanc of that name. The name is the same, however, as the Rita Hayworth 1946 film blanc, Down to Earth which, itself, was something of a sequel to Here Comes Mr. Jordan.