A conventional biopic on almost every level, “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” has so many soapy elements wrapped up in it that nobody really needed to vamp much to hard-sell them. Produced by a small army that includes surviving TLC members Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas and Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, the movie mixes in liberal dollops of music with the group’s up-from-nothing success story and struggles, both internally and against their record label and handlers. Few stories are more fraught with cliches than the rising actor/musician unprepared for the dizzying view from the top, but the project meshes neatly with VH1’s urban appeal.
Starting from the group’s origins in Atlanta (where the movie was shot, for once, not just for the tax credits), the project recounts how Tionne (Drew Sidora) and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (Niatia “Lil’ Mama” Kirkland) began performing together, were discovered by and split with Pebbles (Rochelle Aytes), who wound up suing them; and subsequently hooked up with Chilli (Keke Palmer) to forge an R&B/hip-hop sound that piled up awards and sold millions.
Still, the group’s high-flying lifestyle and iron-clad contracts essentially left them receiving mere financial scraps, eventually forcing them to declare bankruptcy before finding new management and launching a tour that would earn some of what was due them.
On top of that, T-Boz was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia, and Lopes of course met an untimely end in a car crash. Oh yes, and there’s the little matter of that house that wound up burning down.
Written by Kate Lanier and directed by Charles Stone III, “CrazySexyCool” (the title of the group’s second album) doesn’t bring anything fresh to the narrative. Indeed, for all the promises about deep, dark revelations, at times it’s all pretty transparently an extended musicvideo-style promotion for a TLC comeback (including a collaboration with Lady Gaga), dutifully replicating hits like “Waterfalls.”
Moreover, the movie doesn’t really end so much as simply run out of time, featuring the actual artists performing and a montage of highlights.
Still, the story and central players are intriguing enough that the combination of music and melodrama pretty well speaks for itself, without requiring much embellishment. And if this isn’t a movie worth chasing, to borrow a lyric from one of those TLC tunes, if any of those songs sounds familiar to you, it’s not half bad either.