Director: Artie Mandelberg
Starring: Romany Malco, Robert Bailey Jr., Kareem J. Grimes, Brent Anderson, Niambi Dennis
From preacher to rap star and back again
Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story is a biopic about the rise and fall of Stanley Burrell, better known to the world as MC Hammer. Burrell grew up in Oakland, California and developed dancing skills at an early age which he put to use to hustle money outside of the local baseball stadium. He quickly got noticed by the owner of Oakland Athletics and got hired as a clubhouse assistant and batboy. He got his nickname “Hammer” in these surroundings after resembling the legendary Hank Aaron.
When he got older he started to work as a reverend in a church and he changed up the musical tone and made it more up-tempo and full of life instead of just having a basic traditional sermon. He finds his future wife and baby mother Stephanie here, who also becomes his cornerstone during his success and downfall in the music industry.
With the help of his closest friends, he started to pursue his music dreams and both his songs and stage performance set him apart from others in that it was more hype, electric and high energy. Together with all of his backup dancers and hit singles such as U Can’t Touch This and 2 Legit 2 Quit, MC Hammer became a worldwide phenomenon. After basically conquering the music business and touring around the world, Hammer finds himself being… broke. His outrageous spendings have put him in a bad position and even though his newest album is selling great, it is still doing red numbers after they have used way too much money to create and promote it.
Since he is now in financial trouble, he cannot afford to have his big crew and with the emerge of gangster rap he finds himself not being “current” in the rap world either. The frustrations and desperation of all of this makes him change his image and make his music more aggressive and gangster. He starts to work with feared and leading rap record label Death Row Records and starts to hang out with the biggest rapper at the time, Tupac Shakur. His new image drives him away from his family and the public doesn’t accept the new Hammer. After the death of Tupac, Hammer gets his priorities back and reconciles with his family and starts a new life where it all started for him – at his church with God on his side.
The idea of doing a biopic about MC Hammer is not a bad idea. His quick rise and even quicker fall from the music industry is fascinating and considering that he grew up in poor surrounds in Oakland, his backstory should also be quite interesting. This is produced by VH1 who has also done some other biopics that are worth seeing and it’s directed by Artie Mandelberg, who has mostly worked in TV before and after doing this film.
There are a few major problems with this film however. Even though it’s 90 minutes long, the story feels very rushed. Every part of his career and life is told very fast and nothing gets explored. They used way too much time on his small stint with Death Row, and I would have liked to see them focus more on his personal downfall instead of putting the blame on his association with a controversial label. The other big problem is Romany Malco (Ticker, The 40 Year Old Virgin) as MC Hammer. He does not display the charm, arrogance and star power that Hammer has at all and comes off very goofy in most of the movie, especially the dance scenes. Since everything is rushed, he hardly gets the opportunity to display the emotions that Hammer went through at his downfall. It’s a very bad miscast and it hurts the movie a lot.
The concert scenes that are here and the way they showed how Hammer was on top of the world was very cheap and lacked any sort of creativity. I’d also like to add is that the portrayal of Tupac is bound to upset practically any hiphop fan. How could it be a smart decision to portray him as a simple and petty street thug? A mind-blowing choice by the filmmakers here. The last thing, and this usually happens in movies such as these, there’s a really low focus on the music itself, the thoughts behind it and how it were created. After all, that IS what made the musician rise to stardom in the first place and it shouldn’t be neglected like this. Especially when the music is practically the highlight of the film.
Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story is entertaining despite its many flaws, but that might be because I almost always enjoy movies such as these. I really wish they had taken their time and made an effort to make this into a good movie cause his story is good enough to create something way more enjoyable than they made with this one.