By Ashley Hillard
This film came ten years too early or ten years too late, depending on how you look at it. Either way, the story probably would have found a bigger audience in either decade. Although it has made some money, it was not the blockbuster biopic producers (including Sean “P. Diddy” Combs) had probably hoped for.
Set against the backdrop of deceased rapper Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G.’s (Jamal Woolard) home town of Brooklyn New York, the story follows B.I.G. from straight A student, to crack selling hustler, to a world famous rap superstar. His mother, Voletta Wallace, is played by Angela Bassett. Although she is a great actress, she fails with this performance. She doesn’t try for an accent and most fans know Biggie’s mom has an accent and her performance is uninspired.
Biggie’s fallout with the legendary rapper Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie) is documented in the film and Mackie makes Tupac look like an imbecile. Sean, then “Puffy,” Combs (Derek Luke) is featured very little in the film, surprisingly. Combs allows for negative comments made about him at the time to make it into the film, most notably comments made by then Death Row Records head Suge Knight (Sean Ringgold).
Although the material is interesting and there are strong performances by Naturi Naughton, who plays Lil Kim and Antonique Smith as Faith Evans, the film fails to generate the momentum and excitement that it could have. Woolard does a good job as Biggie and bares enough resemblance to make the part believable. Danny Elfman does a great job with the soundtrack, which was key for this film.
Bonus materials on the DVD include an extended version of the film, commentary from director George Tillman Jr., writers Cheo Hodari Coker and Wayne Barrow. There is also the option of selecting commentary from Biggie’s mom, Voletta Wallace and his managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts. Viewers can also check out how casting was done for the film, see how things were done on the film behind the scenes, read the lyrics to Biggie’s songs and see a “bootcamp” feature showing how the director prepared the cast for their performances.