Picks and Pans Review: Little Richard
NBC(Sun., Feb. 20, 9 p.m. ET)
Good golly, this TV biopic is lively. But Little Richard stimulates our curiosity about the flamboyant rock and roller without really satisfying it.
Director Robert Townsend, who covered the highs and lows of the music industry in The Five Heartbeats and Jackie's Back, gets things off to an arresting start. Little Richard (Leon, star of last season's miniseries The Temptations) drives a 1957 concert crowd wild with "Long Tall Sally" until he's suddenly transfixed by a fireball crossing the night sky—a divine signal, he believes, to quit show business. But the rest of the film, despite Leon's verve and some exciting performance scenes (with original Little Richard vocals), fails to provide a full picture of the man it calls "the architect of rock 'n' roll." I was left wondering about the true depth of his religious commitment and wishing (heaven help me) for more than a couple of peeks at his cross-dressing and voyeurism. What's the story on those quirks? As one of the executive producers, Little Richard seems to have chosen titillation over revelation.
Bottom Line: Good beat but doesn't bare all
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