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Review: The Feel-Good 'CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story' Gets An 'A-'

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by Monique A. Williams
October 22, 2013 5:38 PM
10 Comments
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I definitely listen to more Pebbles than TLC in 2013. The beloved girl group took over my developing years, oversaturated the radio, and wore me the hell out. Plus, I really only love their first two albums, Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip and CrazySexyCool.  Still, I was super hype to see VH1 and the surviving members share their version of this phenomenon known as TLC and the trip down memory lane was quite a ride.

CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story definitely plays like a VH1 film, with amazingly accurate reproductions of the popular music videos going into each commercial break. If nothing else, this was worth the two and a half hours.  Who doesn’t remember all the words to Left Eye’s verse in Waterfalls? Good stuff.

The pace moves quickly with the group meeting, replacing a member (Chilli filling the slot) and signing away their lives to Pebbles all before the first break. They should have shown how Left Eye used to sleep at Jermaine Dupri’s house in those pre-deal days without his mother’s knowledge to incorporate more of burgeoning Atlanta at that time than just LaFace and Pebbitone.

Pebbles (Rochelle Aytes) comes across very one-dimensional, almost cartoonish in her villainy. It feels like a child’s perspective in relaying a story of her wicked step sister. Perhaps that says much about the emotional immaturity of the girls.

The relationship troubles that the girls endured continue to promote their relatability. With Chilli’s near obsession with the man-whore Dallas Austin (a forgettable Evan Ross) and Left-Eye's fiery relationship with flamboyant Falcon Andre Rison (Rico Ball), the film showed the flaws of regular girls.  I would have liked if they highlighted that Dalvin was Mr. Dalvin of Jodeci and hired an actor even half as fine.

But that's just me, though.

Left-eye's resistance about the direction of TLC’s music and image was foreshadowed and played well by rapper Lil Mama. She effectively captured the spirit of Lisa, but she looked like her ugly older sister, to be honest. A large part of Left-Eyes appeal was her beauty, and no makeup artist can recreate that. Her creativity and intellect also weren’t highlighted, as she was written as a kind of flighty cartoon character, when it’s clear the real airheads have always been Chilli and T-Boz. They did include the information about Left Eye’s experimental album Supernova that may just have been ahead of its time. Another listen in 2013 will determine that.  Inserting Dr. Sebi  was appreciated for those in the know.  

With all the uproar for casting Keke Palmer, she proved the naysayers wrong by turning in a great performance as the no-nonsense Chilli.  I definitely didn’t like how they categorized her as pretty one, because I was always a T-Boz fan, but I get it. Also, allowing the film to show her abortion was empowering as their message of safe sex continues 20 years later.

I am not familiar with Drew Sidora’s previous work, but she did an apt job for the first two-thirds of the film before auditioning for a role as Beyonce in the next VH1 biopic. Not sure why she started channeling Queen Bey, but she definitely did it well!

The film wasn’t very clear on how TLC got out of their contract after creating this monstrous image of Pebbles, and the hands off L.A. Reid (Carl Anthony Payne II looking good!).  It would have done them well to not portray themselves as victims and own up to the fact that they were negligent in the business side of show business.

For those of us who watched Left Eye’s Honduran documentary, that scene in CrazySexyCool felt very flat. Not that I wanted to recall the last shot of her in the car as she met her death, nor the eerie circumstances surrounding her trip, but this was a scene akin to Selena’s final moments in the Jennifer Lopez film.  I understand the pain associated with tragedy, but it could have had more grit. Definitely not satisfying.

After Left Eye’s passing, the film turned into a long commercial for their greatest hits album, 20, complete with montage of the real Tionne and Rozanda and new song Meant to Be the phrase repeated throughout the film. That left a bad taste in my mouth, but I know they have to eat, too.

All in all, it was a nice film to revisit an era of music and pop culture that shaped a generation and in generating interest in the girl group who set records, broke barriers. I’m sure Pandora and Spotify will get many TLC spins this week and I’ll entertain it for a bit before turning back to Pebbles for that grown woman sound.

Grade: A- for the feel goodedness


Monique A. Williams is an author, student and mother living in Brooklyn.  Currently, she is developing a social platform for the best in urban television and web originals. You can find out more about her at www.itsmomowilly.com

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10 Comments

  • Bonita | October 28, 2013 5:43 AMReply

    Ms Monique,
    Lil Mama did a great job, and for that matter, they all were very good. And why did you
    feel the need to say that Lil Mama looked like Left Eye's ugly older sister, I would guess
    because you are probably somebody's ugly sister. Left Eye's was a special talent because
    of her musical talent and unique creativity, not because she was cute. There are a lot of
    pretty girls out here trying to make it in show business, but they just don't have the talent.
    And if you love honesty so much, please post a picture of yourself so that we all can critique
    your looks. What a clown!!!

  • Roni | October 27, 2013 12:24 AMReply

    WHAT...ARE...YOU...SMOKING? Lil Mama did a fantastic job playing Left Eye and was a dead ringer for her. Out of all of the actresses, she hit the nail on the head the most. While I agree that Lisa's love life was focused on a bit more than T-boz or Chilli's, she burned down a man's freaking house. SHE BURNED IT DOWN! So yeah, a little more attention would be paid to her relationship as that was a huge event in their history as a group (the magazine cover with all three girls in firemens' gear came soon after). Also take into account that the movie DID talk about T-boz and Chilli's troubled relationships. Theirs just weren't as dramatic. I agree that the parts didn't mesh well together; however, I feel that was due to timing. Crazy Sexy Cool should have been a two part mini-series.

    After bashing this movie so bad, it gets an A-??? Eh. Here's another review to read: http://smoochingfrogs.com/blog/2013/10/24/movie-review-crazy-sexy-cool-the-tlc-story

  • Ummmm | October 23, 2013 5:50 PMReply

    I agree that your review does read like a "C", but you hit the nail on the head a couple of times EXCEPT with Drew Sidora. To me, as the story evolved, so did her performance. AND I swear, towards the end she looked just like Beyonce (and I noticed this before I read this review) so I can definitely see her cast as Bey. Lil Mama was ok, Keke was good, but Drew really did a great job. Overall, the film was better than I expected. Oh yeah, how could they make this film WITHOUT Usher? Anyone in the know is very familiar with his "involvement".... Maybe that's why he wasn't included? Who knows.

  • I'm confused | October 23, 2013 3:32 AMReply

    After all the issues you had with it you gave it an A-?

    Doesn't compute.

    The review reads like a C.

  • Geneva Girl | October 23, 2013 11:45 AM

    Ditto!

  • Kojak's Wig | October 23, 2013 12:09 AMReply

    Monique, you'd slap an "A" on any black project as long it had singing and/or women in it and it wasn't independent. (Comedic drum beat.)

    No, but seriously folks, an "A" from Monique on any black studio project is like Grandma Jenkins giving Tyler Perry an "A" the at Magic Johnson Theater on 125 St. (Comedic drum beat.)

    Thank you folks, tip your waitress!

  • Liz | October 22, 2013 8:17 PMReply

    Agree with you about Lil Mama not capturing the entirety of Lisa's intellect, she was great at playing her when she was younger but didn't really seem to be able to take that into her adult persona, ( but I do think she was actually pretty good during the Honduras scenes). The same goes for all the girls actually, I don't know if it's because they're all still quite young themselves but they managed to capture the essence of early TLC well but the later scenes didn't really capture the growth and changes in their personalities so it just felt like they were playing teenage TLC acting out their grown out issues. But that may just be due to the fact that the story was being played out through the memories of T-Boz and Chilli.

    Also I didn't really like the fact that we saw so much about Lisa's turbulent relationships but so little about Chilli's beside Dallas (I was really hoping we'd see Usher) and almost nothing about T-Boz's, we saw her go from Dalvin to (married to?) Mac 10 with little explanation, again this is probably due to T-Boz and Chilli's involvement.

    Overall it was really enjoyable, I loved all the attention to detail with the costumes and staging, Lil' Mama was by far the best of the trio, followed by Drew Sidora who was much better than expected, Keke was a bit meh which is funny since she was the one I was really looking forward to when they first announced the casting.

  • Tell It Like It Is | October 22, 2013 6:30 PMReply

    I agree... I liked Little Mama's performance, but sometimes I could swear that I heard her NY accent come out. Her voice would leave character for a couple of seconds. Am I the only that feels that way?.. I do agree that she doesn't encapsulate Left Eyes' beauty. They were all very beautiful, but in there own way. Chili is more of a "traditional" beauty (long hair, blah, blah), T-Boz - a cool, calm, and slightly tomboyish, yet feminine beauty, and Left was a care-free, crazy, tomboyish beauty with a great energy. Andre Rison was excellently casted and Evan wasn't bad, but had a forgettable performance as you say.

    Overall, I liked it. It was good and made me feel nostalgic... I urge people to look up "Left Eye talks about Tupac Shakur" on Youtube. I truly agree with you on the fact that Lopes' intellectual aspect was not captured.

  • Tell It Like It Is | October 22, 2013 10:11 PM

    Lol. Good to know that it wasn't all in my head.

  • Monique a Williams | October 22, 2013 6:56 PM

    Thanks! Yes, the accent did come in and out!

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