“All Eyez On Me” opened nationwide yesterday, on what would have been the 46th birthday of the late Tupac Shakur, to mixed critical reviews – with many being negative. After attending the Philly screening on Thursday night, observing the theater audience, and speaking with several MMT subscribers afterwards, it was clear that this would be one of those films where you’d see a huge difference in critic vs. audience response – an example of which is highlighted by the aggregate score website Rotten Tomatoes, where the film currently has a 24% rotten score by critics and 71% like by audiences.
The film chronicles the rise of the late rapper/actor, along with his many challenges, and his untimely death at the age of 25. Demetrius Shipp Jr. makes his acting début as Tupac, with a haunting resemblance, and was spot on with his mannerisms – there are several double take moments in the film, especially the music performance scenes.
Another actor prompting a double take moment was Jarrett Ellis, with his uncanny vocal likeness to the legendary Snoop Dogg and the film also marking his first big screen appearance.
While I enjoyed some of the performances, and thought the story was entertaining, I was let down with the first act of the film – which I felt was extremely rushed.
Eddie Gonzalez, who wrote the screenplay along with Jeremy Haft (Empire), expressed that they wanted “to focus on what made Tupac the man he became and (show) his turbulent childhood and adolescence.” However, I don’t believe the film allowed the audience enough time to connect with Tupac’s younger years, nor empathize with what contributed to the complex nature of his character.
I think director, and Philly native, Benny Boom’s (S.W.A.T., Firefight, Next Day Air) aspirations to humanize Tupac – who has taken on an almost deity status for many fans since his death – and portray him as a cautionary tale would have worked better had that time allotment been made.
Also, as a Black woman who enjoyed some of Tupac’s music, including songs like “Keep Ya Head Up” and “Dear Mama,” yet had a hard time reconciling that with his misogynistic actions, I didn’t walk away with a better understanding of how that duality of his came to exist.
Regardless, I don’t believe “All Eyez On Me” is the disaster that some critics are claiming, but rather has unfortunately come behind the heels of the highly successful, and extremely well done, 2015 F. Gary Gray vehicle “Straight Outta Compton” – so there are unfair comparisons being made.
I’d love to know what you think about this one MMT Fam, so leave some thoughts in the comments, and thanks to the many subscribers who stopped me after the advance screening to share.
Until next thought, Thomasena