12:18 pm - 10/20/2013
'CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story' Reviews Are In!
The new VH1 movie on legendary girl group TLC — “CrazySexyCool” — doesn’t have to be at all good to be jaw-droppingly great.
The girls have a story no director or writer could screw up — or make up.
The deliciously plotted flick, which debuts Monday at 9 p.m., bounces from one in-your-face, litigious or tragic event to another.
Highlights include multiple lawsuits, bouts of alcoholism, a life-threatening disease, an incestuous affair, wars between the girls waged in the press, one member famously torching her boyfriend’s house to the ground (then posing on a magazine cover, gleefully sporting a fire hose) and, finally, the death of the group’s self-declared craziest member in a horrific car accident.
No reality show could compete with the density, intensity and mania of this plot. In fact, watching the story today makes TLC seem like the natural precursors to “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Not only do they beat the housewives in attitude, they provide the historic starting point for Atlanta’s later role as an entertainment capital hot enough to rival the coasts
The film’s principal characters are played by Keke Palmer (as Rozanda “Chilli” Thomas), Drew Sidora (Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins), Lil Mama (Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes) and Rochelle Aytes (Perri “Pebbles” Reid).
Even close fans of the biggest — and wildest — girl group America has ever known may be surprised by some of the movie’s salacious anecdotes. Who knew Chilli was briefly booted from the group early on after the manager, Reid, caught her swapping spit with band producer Dallas Austin?
The movie paints Austin as a serial cad and Pebbles as a frustrated, late-period Joan Crawford-type — jealous of the girls’ youth and hell-bent on controlling every aspect of their lives. Such portrayals may be cartoonish, but they contribute, gorgeously, to the flick’s berserk sense of drama.
Where to begin with such telenovela-worthy material?
You’ll howl as the girls storm the office of record company czar Clive Davis, flanked by roughneck friends, ready to shake down the mogul for the profits they doubt he’ll fork over.
Your eyes will widen as Lisa, frustrated by her shrinking role in the music, goes behind the other girls’ backs to issue a challenge in the press, demanding they record three separate solo CDs and let the public decide whose they really want to hear.
Naturally, the scene of Lisa setting the famous fire that destroyed the house of her philandering boyfriend, football player Andre Rison, makes the pulse quicken, and sick snickers will erupt, though there’s more nuance here than originally reported. Lisa always insisted she didn’t mean to torch the whole place, just to burn the clothes of a romantic rival.
All three girls seem to have a knack for hooking up with the most untrustworthy men imaginable, including some of the very “scrubs” one of their biggest hits warned against.
But earnest moments do emerge, like those dealing with T-Boz’s battles with sickle cell anemia, Chilli’s abortion and more than one troubled pregnancy. It’s also admirable that the movie doesn’t sugar-coat some of Lisa’s more troubling behavior, including alcoholism and hissy-fits that, at several times, essentially held the other members hostage to her whims.
The movie deals with Lisa’s death tastefully and sincerely, and the three actresses who play the girls couldn’t be better. They have the trio’s finger-snapping repartee and sisterly rapport down. If the script clunks, and the direction of Charles Stone III lacks the slightest in subtlety or grace, those qualities aren’t what matters. The cray-cray back story is. It’s one that has to be seen — and seen again — to be believed.
On Tuesday TLC will release its first new album in 11 years. Sort of. It’s yet another hits collection, their third of this type. The twist? It includes one new song from the surviving members, “Meant to Be.” The song, which runs under the closing credits of VH1’s “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story,” tries to put a happy face on the often less-than-beamy film. “Every now and then/it’s got to rain,” T-Boz and Chilli harmonize. “But all you got to do is turn around and see me holding you up.”
The song-of-sisterhood features a decent enough melody, recalling late-period Michael Jackson ballads. A revelation, it’s not. But it does put a sweet period on one of the nuttiest pop stories ever told.