All Eyez on Me
On its opening day in Asheville, All Eyez on Me played at 4:20 and someone in the theater covertly toked on a Black & Mild. Had the Tupac Shakur biopic been half as entertaining as those two factors, it might have been worth checking out, but the almost pointless exercise in imitation and reenactment instead packs a staying power on par with that moviegoer’s smoke.
Beyond the constant marveling at how closely Demetrius Shipp Jr. resembles the late rapper and the joys of hearing his now classic songs, there’s hardly anything nice to say about this 140 minute slog.
Even with other occasional dead-ringer casting — most prominently in the cases of The Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard, reprising his role from the far superior Notorious) and Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana) — barely anyone delivers a laudable performance under the guidance of veteran music video director Benny Boom.
Penned by a three-man screenwriting team (two of whom are responsible for the direct-to-DVD Street Kings 2: Motor City), All Eyez on Me utilizes a framing device of Tupac being interviewed in prison in 1995 by an unnamed documentarian (Hill Harper) who strongly resembles Mario Van Peebles.
Lobbed softball questions that conveniently allow him to recount his life in near chronological order, Tupac delves into the events that shaped him as a young man, from the ups and downs with his activist mother Afeni (Danai Gurira, overacting in every scene) to his close friendship with Jada Pinkett (Kat Graham) during his Baltimore days.
The episodic approach quickly gets the film to Tupac’s music career, at which point minor glee arises through watching Shipp go through the motions of iconic music videos and lip-synch to memorable lyrics.
In depicting these moments, however, Boom’s visual style never transcends the production value of a VH1 original movie and he myseriously fails to shoot Tupac’s inherently energetic concerts with a hint of creativity.
There’s nothing like the “No Vaseline” sequence from Straight Outta Compton nor the charged “Who Shot Ya?” performance in Notorious to be found in All Eyez on Me, and as the film sludges forward the casting decisions grow less impressive as well.
The actors chosen to play Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg more closely call to mind the men who portrayed them in Compton than the musicians themselves, but more troubling is the confounding decision of casting Snoop to dub in his own lines. Hearing his easily identifiable voice emerge from someone who only looks like him from behind is a laughable misstep, one of many that do disservice to Tupac and his legacy.
Grade: C-minus. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark
(Photo: Quantrell Colbert)