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By Bret McCabe | Posted 1/14/2009

Just who is this Notorious B.I.G. biopic for? Director George Tillman Jr. (Barbershop) literally puts everything already known about the preternaturally gifted MC Christopher Wallace (Jamal Woolard as an adult, who has Biggie's gentle grace, sense of humor, and goofy way with the ladies down pat, and Biggie's own son, Christopher Jordan Wallace, as a kid) into a made-for-TV special: growing up a smart kid under the watchful eye of a single mother (Angela Bassett) in Bedford-Stuyvesant, turning to drug dealing early to make that cash, rapping on the side to kill time, doing a jail bid in North Carolina, honing his rhyme skills, and meeting up with the soon to be household name Sean Combs in early '90s New York to bring East Coast rap back to the top of the pops. And while Notorious is certainly faithful to how people remember this era--costume choices mimic well-known photo sessions, and certain now-legendary lyrics become mundane dialog lines--it never offers more insight into the MC than can't be gleaned from close listenings to the two flawless albums he recorded before he was gunned down March 9, 1997. Workmanlike, but little more than 1990s nostalgia.

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