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If you happened to be at E Street Cinema on Tuesday night and wondered what the hell Redskins Santana Moss and Clinton Portis were doing running around the lobby, the answer is: they were attending an advance screening of Notorious, the Biggie Smalls biopic!
The preview, sponsored by Fox Searchlight, Love nightclub, and various other entities, was a star-studded event. Attendees included: Kima from the R&B group Total! Singer Raheem DeVaughn! Poot from the Wire! That dude who is in all the Tyler Perry movies! From what I could tell by looking at the backs of their heads, they enjoyed the movie very much, as did I.
As a completely rabid Biggie fan, I expected to hate Notorious, but it was fairly true to the life of Christopher Wallace (AKA Biggie Smalls), and Jamal Woolard (AKA rapper Gravy) played the shit out of his role as the black Frank White. Still, while some moments in the movie were electric and rang true, others…not so much.
So, for all of you planning on seeing the movie tomorrow, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best and worst moments that you should watch for in Notorious.
As satisfying as a t-bone steak, cheese eggs, and Welch’s grape:
- Christopher Wallace is referred to as Biggie Smalls throughout the film, not “the Notorious B.I.G.,” which was great. No one calls him “The Notorious B.I.G.”
- Big’s real-life son, CJ, or Christopher Wallace, Jr., was absolutely adorable playing his father as a young’un.
- Derek Luke, best known for his role in Antoine Antwone Fisher, portrays Sean “Puff Daddy/Puffy/P. Diddy/Diddy” Combs. Going in, I was of the opinion that Luke is far too fine and not nearly annoying enough to do Combs justice. But when he donned a shiny shirt and executed the Bad Boy mogul’s trademark happy dance, Luke was Puff.
- Whether it was the result of method acting, or simply the actor’s own respiratory issues, Woolard was pretty much out-of-breath for the entire movie. Big’s lack of breath control was a huge part of his persona. Nice touch!
- When Biggie stops selling drugs and starts trying to establish himself as a rapper, his mother Voletta Wallace (played by Angela Bassett), isn’t convinced that the new crowd he’s been hanging with is legit. During a heated argument, she screams, “What kind of grown man calls himself Puffy?” I don’t know, Ms. Wallace, I’m still trying to figure that one out.
- Notorious isn’t an Oscar kind of a movie, but the costume team on this flick definitely deserves a nod from the Academy. They replicated Biggie’s outfits perfectly. Remember the black pinstripe suit from his Vibe photo shoot with Faith? The blue suede jacket with the porkpie hat? The Coogi sweaters? The red-and-black lumberjack, with the hat to match? It was all there, kids.
- After Big marries Faith (played by Antonique Smith), a huge “BIG [HEARTS] FAITH” tattoo appears on her right breast. It looks just like the nasty tat the real Faith has/had!
- At various points in the film, Big is seen yoking up both Lil’ Kim and Faith, contemplating suicide, and ignoring the existence of his eldest daughter. None of it is pretty, but I’m, glad Big’s mother, who is behind the project, didn’t sanitize her son’s story.
- There are a couple of good concert scenes in the movie, but the best one recreates Big’s 1992 performance of “Party & Bullshit” at Howard Homecoming. The crowd isn’t feeling it at all until Big and Puff pull a little stunt: they have all of the hype men on stage start a huge fight, which is revealed to be a big ruse when Big starts rhyming and the men stop swinging and start jumping up and down and dancing. I loved this! Howard kids would totally be won over by gangster theatrics rather than tight lyrics! Spot-on.
- Lil’ Kim has been vocal about her hatred of the film, but Naturi Naughton played the “Queen B” well. The performance was especially amazing considering Naughton’s background. Naughton did everything short of getting a bad boob job to transform herself into Big Momma.
- The movie flawlessly recreates all of the Vibe covers of the era, and does a good job of conveying the importance of the mag. Vibe was a key player in the East Coast/West Coast, Biggie/Pac saga, and it’s good that was acknowledged.
Played out like Kwame and those fuckin’ polka dots:
- No Charli Baltimore? C’mon!
- Anthony Mackie, of She Hate Me fame, was just not that convincing as Pac. I know it’s nearly impossible to capture Shakur in a way that will satisfy his fans, but this didn’t even come close.
- We only see the Craig Mack for a split second, but the dude playing him looks pretty cute. No good.
- When Biggie starts selling crack, he decides to hide his drug-funded gear, sneakers, and jewelry from his mother by locking it all up on the roof of his building. I don’t know if this happened in real life or not, but I have a feeling that in Brooklyn during the late ’80s, crackheads would’ve raided that clothing stash like an unattended paper bag full of red tops.
- When Mrs. Wallace discovers Biggie’s coke stash, she throws it out and later berates him for leaving an “old bowl of mashed potatoes” underneath his bed. I don’t know much about the chemistry of cooked spuds, but I somehow doubt they evaporate and leave behind a pure white powder.
- Angela Bassett’s Jamaican accent is ridiculous. Sometimes it’s thick, sometimes it’s nonexistent. Total bullshit.
- Before meeting Big, Puff asks the rapper’s manager if he has the sex appeal of an LL Cool J or a Wesley Snipes, but Puff doesn’t seem stunned when Big’s massive figure finally enters the room. Haven’t the writers of this movie seen how he rides the women of Danity Kane about their weight?
- There’s not nearly enough music in this movie. What, no “Everyday Struggle?” No “Machine Gun Funk?” And yet, “Hypnotize” is played like, five times? Ugh.
- The East/Cost West Cost beef is sort of glossed over, as are the conspiracy theories surrounding the deaths of both Pac and Big. Total crap.
- During one key scene, Biggie is seen watching television and on the coffee table in front of him sits a gigantic orange bong sitting on the coffee table in front of him. A bong? Really? No way! He smoked dutches from the master, period.
- This isn’t about the movie itself, but what’s up with the grammatical error on the movie poster? “No dream is ‘to’ Big? Out-of-work copy editors, hit up Fox Searchlight. They are in need of your services.