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The Five Heartbeats

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The Five Heartbeats

type:
Movie
Current Status:
In Season
mpaa:
R
runtime:
121 minutes
performer:
Harry J. Lennix, Michael Wright, Tico Wells, Robert Townsend, Diahann Carroll
director:
Robert Townsend
distributor:
Fox Home Video
author:
Robert Townsend, Keenen Ivory Wayans
genre:
Drama, musical

We gave it a C

Director-cowriter Robert Townsend’s musical film, The Five Heartbeats, is essentially the Broadway hit Dreamgirls remade with the Y chromosome, a loosely fictionalized account of the rise and fall of a mid-’60s vocal group along the lines of the Temptations. This isn’t a bad idea for a movie, but since Townsend (Hollywood Shuffle) stages it mostly as a collection of show-biz biopic clichés, The Five Heartbeats never becomes credible enough to be involving. Even so, stars Townsend and the still-gorgeous Diahann Carroll are appealing, as are the faux-Motown songs coproduced by jazz keyboard player George Duke. And here and there are a couple of telling period details — a scarily thuggish record mogul, a young girl going near-orgasmic in her seat at the Heartbeats’ first performance — that offer hints of what this film might have been if Townsend hadn’t felt compelled to Hollywood it up. C

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