In this thoroughly inoffensive biopic about Notorious B.I.G., Christopher Biggie Wallace is played by Jamal Woolard, known as rapper Gravy, who does a respectably credible impersonation. It helps that hes a first-time actor; Woolard offers more than just another famous face playing Hollywood Halloween dress-up, unlike Derek Luke as Puff Daddy and Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur. Hes imposing but also gentle, a bastard but also an angel, and he renders a young Chris Wallaces dreams almost tangible. But director George Tillman Jr., who makes square and reliable biopics every decade or so, doesnt have time to dwell on the nobody Chris, whos too small-fry for the big-time Biggie story for which the audience has paid its hard-earned. He fast-forwards instead to the glossy, glamorous lifethe fuck-you photo-ops with Tupac; the change-the-world meetings with Puff Daddy; the steamy trysts with Lil Kim (Naturi Naughton) and Faith Evans (Antonique Smith); and the nasty run-ins with Suge Knight (Sean Ringgold). The movie turns into a parade of bold-faced namesa hip-hop, stunt-cast episode of Entourage, but with a decidedly tragic ending. Notorious doesnt wash away Biggies sins, but it absolves him of them too easily; as every deeds done, its explained away by the ghost of Biggie spouting hindsight wisdom. Such is the restraint to be expected from the authorized biographyNotorious, after all, was produced by Biggies mom and executive produced by Combs, who do just enough to burnish the legend without tarnishing it.
George Tillman Jr.Angela Bassett, Anthony Mackie, Derek Luke, Jamal Woolard, Naturi Naughton, Marc John Jefferies, Antonique Smith, Sean Ringgold, Kevin Navayne, Charles Malik WhitfieldAdam H. Miller, Peter SpirerDavid CohenFox Searchlight Pictures
All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.