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If you’re wondering about the odd spelling in this film’s title, you may not be its target demographic.

All Eyez on Me was also the name of the first album released by rapper Tupac Shakur after his own release from prison on a sex abuse charge. (His previous disc, Me Against the World, had the dubious distinction of being the first Billboard chart-topper by a jailed artist.)

Director and sometimes music video maker Benny Boom uses time served as a framing technique for this Tupac biopic (bioPac?), with the rapper being interviewed by a sympathetic journalist (Hill Harper) while incarcerated. Although midway through the movie he is released thanks to a bailout from producer/godfather Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana), and the film reverts to standard storytelling.

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But in or out of jail, the broad strokes used to paint Tupac cast him as variously innocent, gentle or misunderstood. He is often near violence but seldom an active participant – well, except for that time in 1993 when he shot an off-duty cop, but as the film tells it, he was all but justified.

It’s a touch overdone and quite unnecessary. Tupac’s legacy, more than 20 years after his shooting death in 1996, remains strong – the guy has had almost as many posthumous hits as he did when he was alive, not to mention that hologrammatic performance with Snoop Dogg in 2012. It’s as though the trio of writers fear we’ll think less of the man if they show us a multi-faceted, truly human character.

So we go from an in-utero introduction, as Tupac’s pregnant mother (Danai Gurira in the film’s strongest performance) gives a black power speech on the steps of a courthouse in 1971 while cradling her swollen belly, to a final scene in which an angelic rap choir serenades the singer as he lies, wounded and bleeding, on the pavement in Las Vegas.

In between, the film Coles Noteses its way through the early, itinerant years: In 1975, little Tupac listens to his stepfather preaching “black is beautiful”; 1982, and he’s reading about Nelson Mandela in the papers and remarking “I’m going to be a revolutionary”; in 1987, he meets future actress Jada Pinkett, writes poems to her and begins a lifelong friendship. “And the next thing I knew I was on tour!” Yet even at this pace the film trundles on to more than two-and-a-quarter hours.

As Tupac, newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. nails the look if not the emotional heft of the man, but I’m going to chalk that up to the overly cautious script. Every time the film allows itself to linger on a scene, the drama starts to flow. But all too soon we’re hustled to the next chapter, as Tupac becomes an actor, gets in a feud with then-vice-president Dan Quayle over obscene lyrics, and dithers his way out of explaining his THUG LIFE tattoo.

All Eyez could have been a much more powerful portrait of the artist who died far too young a man – Tupac’s own Straight Outta Compton, if you will – if only it trusted viewers enough to give us the whole person. Rappers are known for outsized egos, and films that don’t follow suit do their subjects a disservice.

Source : http://news.nationalpost.com/entertainment/movies/tupac-biopic-all-eyez-on-me-is-a-touch-overdone-and-quite-unnecessary

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