Playing more like a telepic than a theatrically released biopic, All Eyez On Me paints the life of Tupac Shakur in broad strokes.
But, as in life, the story moves too quickly by means of vignettes into the history of what shaped this New York-born, Cali-formed, Shakespeare-quoting hip-hop icon.
Also as in life, there will be inevitable comparisons to Notorious, the 2009 film (R, 122 mins.) about rival Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace. That's especially so with Jamal Woolard reprising his role -- again -- as "Biggie" from that more ambitious and more cohesive film.
All Eyez On Me is held together with outward-facing stitching, and its game cast suffers because of it.
Demetrius Shipp Jr., with an uncanny resemblance to the titular subject, is finally allowed to inhabit the swagger of Tupac as the movie wears on. One gets the feel that he was rushed from wardrobe to set to wardrobe to set as the movie swoops from a jailhouse interview in Clinton Correctional in 1995 to New York City 1971 as mother Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira, The Walking Dead) gives a speech on the courthouse steps after being found innocent.
Then there's a rapid-fire maturation of our hero, from Bronx 1982 where he declared "I'm gonna be a revolutionary." Then quick, there's Baltimore 1987, where he meets Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham, doing the most) at the arts high school in Baltimore and finds his footing on stage as Hamlet. Then he's sent to Oakland in 1988, all through the framing device of the interview which is thankfully dismissed in the better second half of the movie.
There are recognizable figures by design, if not more uncanny resemblance.
Jarrett Ellis' voice is so on point that every time he spoke in the movie as Snoop Doog, the audience laughed whether a serious moment or not. It was so distracting as to make you think it was a voice-over. And Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana) was menacing enough that it made his repeated and violent scenes redundant.
There are tighter stories that could have been told, such as that of Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, a member of the Black Panthers. Her performance makes you appreciate more the lyrics to Tupac's ode, "Dear Mama." Or the one of his friendship with Pinkett, which seemed to get short shrift to be as deep as the film would have you believe. Or the one of his relationship with his short-lived but seemingly fulfilling relationship with Kidada Jones, played by Grapevine native Annie Ilonzeh.
Sure, there are good things here, such as the music. Try not to rap along.
The subtitle tells you what this movie wanted to be: The Untold Story of Tupac Shakur. But you know how this story ends. And, because it played out so publicly before, and has been held far and wide for people to dissect for 20 years, this movie had a hard row to hoe.
The stats nail the reasons why he's tagged as "legendary." More than 75 million albums sold, seven movies and a cinematic life filled with villains, heroes, antiheroes, guns and roses. And there's not even a mention that people paid good money to see a hologram of the rapper perform.
It is what it is. But the memory of Tupac probably deserved a better birthday gift.
All Eyez On Me (C)
Rated R. 140 mins. Directed by Benny Boom. In wide release.
What's going on
The Recall (R, 90 mins.) will introduce a revolutionary new cinematic device, and I'm not talking about star Wesley Snipes.
The movie purports to be one of the first to also include a "Virtual Reality companion" piece starring Snipes available on VR platforms: a short film called The Recall: Abduction.
The movie will play in two theaters in North Texas: AMC Mequite 30, 19919 Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway, Mesquite; and AMC Grapevine Mills 30, 3150 Grapevine Mills Pkwy, Grapevine.
In it, some friends go on vacation in a cabin by the lake -- no, not the last house on the left -- and encounter otherworldly things. Again, not talking about Wesley Snipes. But Snipes is on hand to warn them about an impending alien invasion and abduction plot.
Yep, right in his wheelhouse.
The Dallas Museum of Art's Golden Age of Mexican Cinema Film Series will continue with Salon Mexico (1949, 95 mins., in Spanish with English subtitles) on June 18 at 11:30 a.m. in Horchow Auditorium. Find the full schedule on the museum's website, DMA.org.
Harkins Theatres has announced its June lineup for Tuesday Night Classics. The series continues with Grease (1978, PG, 110 mins.) on June 20; and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971, G, 100 mins.) on June 27. The films will screen each Tuesday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5. Harkins Southlake 14 is at 1450 Plaza Place in Southlake.