Notorious - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Notorious Reviews

Top Critic
Tom Huddlestone
Time Out
February 12, 2009
As mainstream hip hop becomes ever more predictable, so do the biopics about its stars.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/6
Top Critic
David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
January 20, 2009
Even if we miss the thinking that went into the creation of Wallace's B.I.G.-ger-than-life alter ego, the movie's performances are exultant.
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David Denby
New Yorker
January 20, 2009
The movie leaves us with the sense that, twelve years after Biggie Smalls's death, a lot of people are trying to extract whatever profit or pride they can from the chaotic life of a young man who was, as he well knew, a work in progress.
Top Critic
Ben Mankiewicz
At the Movies
January 20, 2009
If Milk set the standard for biopics in 2008, then 2009 is off to a strong start with Notorious.
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Ben Lyons
At the Movies
January 20, 2009
For a hardcore fan of his music and his life, it rings true.
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Claudia Puig
USA Today
January 16, 2009
Notorious is like a piece of well-crafted bling. It looks good, and facets of it shine, but behind the gilded facade there's not much there.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Jason Anderson
Toronto Star
January 16, 2009
This tale of triumph and tragedy within hip hop's elite is intelligent, gripping and far less sensationalistic than anyone could have expected.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Tom Keogh
Seattle Times
January 16, 2009
The best thing about Notorious is its across-the-board, excellent cast, especially the soulful Woolard and Mackie's mesmerizing work as the complex Shakur.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Justin Berton
San Francisco Chronicle
January 16, 2009
It must have been an act of great restraint for Sean Combs to resist titling this film, about Chris Wallace, his close friend turned rapper and cultural icon, The Notorious B.I.G. -- The Sean Combs Story.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Stephanie Zacharek
Salon.com
January 16, 2009
Notorious is surprisingly and pleasantly unflashy, a straightforward picture that makes a distinction between classiness and bling.
Top Critic
Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
January 16, 2009
George Tillman Jr.'s film may follow the well-worn path of many a musical biography. But spot-on casting, a light touch around the edges and affection for its subject makes this warts-and-all look at the big man with the big hits a winner.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
January 16, 2009
The script lets too much slide, and director George Tillman Jr. -- whose biggest films have been Soul Food and the Barbershop franchise -- abets it.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Kyle Smith
New York Post
January 16, 2009
Closer to Scorsese than Scarface, Notorious gives a heartfelt yet clear-eyed sendoff to the late Brooklyn rapper Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls aka the Notorious B.I.G.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Elizabeth Weitzman
New York Daily News
January 16, 2009
It's unlikely there will be a better dramatization of the Biggie Smalls story than this one.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
January 16, 2009
Notorious obviously loves its protagonist, but the movie can't get past its own starstruck awe.
| Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Betsy Sharkey
Los Angeles Times
January 16, 2009
Notorious has a fine time along the way, with Woolard channeling the rapper's sweetness and wit as comfortably as his pathos.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5
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Joey Guerra
Houston Chronicle
January 16, 2009
A vivid biopic of the larger-than-life rap star that doesn't require you be a big fan of the genre.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
January 16, 2009
This flick smoothes out the roughest edges, drains off the rawness and blandly retraces the narrative arc of every musical biopic since The Jazz Singer.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Adam Graham
Detroit News
January 16, 2009
Notorious is a game of dress-up, the Greatest Hits version of Biggie's life. But in the end, it fails to present a convincing argument of why we should care.
Full Review | Original Score: C
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Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
January 16, 2009
Notorious, directed by George Tillman Jr. with a sentimental touch, seems torn.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Andrea Gronvall
Chicago Reader
January 16, 2009
This engrossing biopic, throbbing with style and attitude, will likely add to his legend.
Top Critic
Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
January 16, 2009
An enjoyably ridiculous entertainment about a pursy young man with mysterious sex appeal who turns the rap world on its ear.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
A.O. Scott
New York Times
January 16, 2009
Anyone looking for a dispassionate, evenhanded account of the life of Biggie Smalls will be disappointed, perhaps even dismayed, by Notorious.
| Original Score: 2.5/5
Top Critic
James Berardinelli
ReelViews
January 16, 2009
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 16, 2009
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Laremy Legel
Film.com
January 16, 2009
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Tom Horgen
Minneapolis Star Tribune
January 15, 2009
It's as if the filmmakers didn't trust Woolard to carry the emotional weight of Wallace's story. They should have.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Chris Richards
Washington Post
January 15, 2009
Feels like Biggie's Wikipedia page reformatted for the big screen.
Top Critic
Nathan Rabin
AV Club
January 15, 2009
A great rapper deserves a great biopic, but B.I.G. fans will have to settle for this merely passable one.
Full Review | Original Score: C+
Top Critic
Dan DeLuca
Philadelphia Inquirer
January 15, 2009
Notorious is an efficient biopic, and a celebratory exercise in nostalgia for hip-hop fans of a certain age.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
January 15, 2009
Even when this 'authorized' movie biography makes you long for the 'explicit' version, Woolard's tour de force finds the human details that forged an artist and lets Biggie fly.
| Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Glenn Gamboa
Newsday
January 15, 2009
What really saves Notorious are the performances of rapper Jamal Woolard, who captures some of The Notorious B.I.G.'s playful charm, and newcomer Naturi Naughton, who dazzles early on as the fiery Lil' Kim.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
Top Critic
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
January 15, 2009
Notorious is a good film in many ways, but its best achievement is the casting of Jamal Woolard, a rapper named Gravy, in the title role.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Randy Cordova
Arizona Republic
January 15, 2009
If there's a guide book on how to create a standard rags-to-riches music biopic, the makers of Notorious must have memorized every page.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/5
Top Critic
Dana Stevens
Slate
January 15, 2009
The best way to remember Biggie Smalls is to listen to "Juicy" or "Things Done Changed" or any of the virtuosic autobiographical raps in which Christopher Wallace paints his own world with more immediacy and wit than Notorious ever manages to muster.
Top Critic
Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
January 14, 2009
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 (often for the same reasons).
Full Review | Original Score: B+
Top Critic
Amy Nicholson
Boxoffice Magazine
January 14, 2009
Kicks off with the usual rapper braggadocio of a childhood on the cutthroat street corners, then slyly cuts to a chubby A-student nerd known as "Chrissy-poo" to mom Voletta.
| Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
David Fear
Time Out
January 14, 2009
Notorious delivers nothing but clumsy filmmaking and a greatest-hits checklist, without offering insight into the man or his myth. If you don't know now...you still won't know.
| Original Score: 2/6
Top Critic
Jesse Washington
Associated Press
January 14, 2009
Notorious, a biography of the rapper Notorious B.I.G., transcends gangster-flick cliches because of the outsized talents of the artist and the actor who portrays him.
Top Critic
Robert Wilonsky
Village Voice
January 14, 2009
Just buy the records; that's the point of this infomercial anyhow.
Top Critic
Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
January 12, 2009
It has terrific performances, a powerful soundtrack and eye-catching visuals.
Top Critic
John Anderson
Variety
January 12, 2009
A rock-solid biopic with a foolproof rise-and-fall storyline and a warmly nuanced performance by Jamal Woolard as iconic rapper Christopher Wallace.
Top Critic
Allison Samuels
Newsweek
January 5, 2009
Watching Notorious was like attending a 10-year high-school reunion and reliving the good old days when the future seemed so bright.