Review Roundup: ‘Notorious’

The Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious hits theaters nationwide today starring Jamal Woolard, Angela Bassett, Antonique Smith, Naturi Naughton, Derek Luke, and more. Find out how the larger-than-life film weighs in with the critics.

Entertainment Weekly: Notorious is a luridly unapologetic trip through the violence, hunger, verbal bravado, and money fever of the hip-hop world, which it views as both liberating and destructive. … Notorious sticks close to the details, and the hell-bent spirit, of Biggie’s life. B+

The New York Times: So Notorious settles into a curious comfort zone; it’s half pop fable, half naturalistic docudrama. Not a bad movie, but nowhere near as strong as its soundtrack.

Rolling Stone: Notorious leaves Biggie on the verge of a maturity that plays like wishful thinking. But even when this “authorized” movie biography makes you long for the “explicit” version, [Jamal] Woolard’s tour de force finds the human details that forged an artist and lets Biggie fly. 3.5 out of 5

The Hollywood Reporter: This is the first gotta-see movie of 2009. It has terrific performances, a powerful soundtrack, and eye-catching visuals.

Los Angeles Times: Antonique Smith, who plays Faith Evans, the creamy R&B chanteuse who would become Biggie’s wife and the mother of his son, is delicious in the role. Naturi Naughton gives Lil’ Kim, a rapper and Biggie’s longtime lover, a raw, raging edge that scalds everything around her.

Variety: Skim off all the bling, and Notorious is a rock-solid biopic with a foolproof rise-and-fall storyline and a warmly nuanced performance by Jamal Woolard as iconic rapper Christopher Wallace—aka Biggie Smalls, aka the Notorious B.I.G.

USA Today: While Notorious is well-made, it mythologizes someone who treated people, particularly women, with disrespect and whose life and art glamorized drug use, promiscuity and violence. It seems an odd choice of film to open just days before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.