Monday, January 15, 2007

Movie Review: The Temptations 3 Stars

Maybe I’m just an old school Motown fan from back in the day, but I absolutely loved this made-for-TV movie chronicling the triumphs and tragedies of the band that helped define the Motown Sound. And what tragedies -- decade-long career slumps made all the better by alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, debilitating rheumatoid arthritis, crack-related death and lung cancer.

Like a dramatized Behind The Music, the script from Kevin Arkadie and Robert Johnson documents the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise and fall of this seminal soul group. From humble beginnings as the doo-wop group Otis Williams and the Siberians, The Temptations gives insight into a fertile Detroit where the Temps and Lamont Dozier attended the same high school, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and the Supremes were in the same doo wop group, and Martha Reeves was a secretary at Hitsville, USA.

Told from the perspective of the only remaining original Temptation Otis Williams, The Temptations has a definite bias. Otis is portrayed as a Golden Boy while the rest of the Temps -- save Otis’ best friend, Melvin Franklin and manager, Shelly Berger, the film’s co-producer -- are represented as wishy-washy at best, egomaniacal cokeheads and abusive drunks at worst.

The performances, however, are outstanding. Charles Malik Whitfield as Otis Williams, DB Woodside as Melvin Franklin, Terron Brooks as Eddie Kendricks, Christian Payton as Paul Williams, Leon as David Ruffin, Alan Rosenberg as Shelly Berger, and Obba Babatunde as Berry Gordy turn it out. Veteran TV director Allen Arkush captures the energy and spirit of the times, expressed through fantastic recreations of live Temptations performances.

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