Chris Robinson directs, to an astonishingly personal degree, this biopic that chronicles the ups and downs of the legendary Boston music group in The New Edition Story.
If any of you have read any of my journalistic work (wow that sounds really arrogant but let me land), you’ll know that I like to start my articles with a disclaimer. I was born in 1996 in the UK so I’m not going to sit down and pretend I knew everything about the New Edition going into this three part TV movie series but I’ve come out a massive fan.
Chris Robinson’s ability to direct this story in such a beautiful way made me feel like I’d been New Edition’s biggest fan for 30-odd years. I was able to see the members in a different light, with every member having their own character development and timelines. I really felt embroiled in the drama and the magic of The New Edition Story.
“As the story unfolds and the drama unravels I feel a vested interest in seeing the group do well.”
The three part series begins with a reenactment of a tour date on the New Edition reunion tour in 1996, with Bobby Brown (Woody McClain) playing for too long, leading to an altercation between the singer and Bell, Biv and Devoe.
It then flashes back to the roots of New Edition in Boston, where five extremely talented young actors, including Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin, do a phenomenal job of portraying the early years of The New Edition Story with Brooke Payne (Wood Harris) as their manager, facing the arduous job of coaching five young talented singer/dancers into professional superstars.
One of my favourite aspects of the first episode is the way each character is portrayed right from the beginning. Brooke Payne is portrayed as the father figure from the very start of the series, a man who sees potential in the group, and not only wants success, but individual growth from the young New Edition members.
It’s also interesting to see the early traits of the boys develop, including the distinct way that Bobby Brown, from an early age, always yearns to be the star and is portrayed as unable to work in a group without receiving the spotlight. Michael Bevins (Bryshere Y. Gray) on the other hand is portrayed as street savvy and wise beyond his years from the jump.
“The themes of camaraderie, brotherhood and betrayal are enough to captivate any viewer”
As the story unfolds and the drama unravels I feel a vested interest in seeing the group do well. When Bobby’s coke addiction comes into play I felt annoyed at him letting the others down and when Ralph Tresvant (Algee Smith) started working on his solo album, I was anxious to see whether he’d complete The Heart Break album just so that the other members could be financially secure before he went solo.
It’s safe to say I was very emotionally involved in this three part series and I am grateful that the story has been told in such a way that allows lessons to be learnt.
From the perspective of a music fan, this film was great. I enjoyed being exposed to so many aspects of the music industry as well as an array of fantastic RnB classics, however, from the standpoint of someone who is not a fan of the RnB genre, there were some aspects to appeal to a wider audience. The themes of camaraderie, brotherhood and betrayal are enough to captivate any viewer, and the storylines of Bobby Brown and Ricky Bell deteriorating into drug addiction and other vices are emotionally riveting.
Before I conclude, I have to address the elephant in the room. Whitney Houston is basically an extra in this film, I can’t even remember if she had a speaking role. That being said the story was put together really well and it centred around New Edition, and with the passing of Whitney and his daughter in such a short space of time, I can only assume portraying Whitney and Bobby’s relationship in its darker light would have been too much for Bobby Brown. However, I can’t help but get serious déjà vu to Straight Outta Compton’s convenient dismissal of Dr Dre’s abusive nature within his relationships with women.
This is less of a review and more of an appraisal of a phenomenal three part series that seriously schooled me on the RnB legends that are New Edition. Maybe if Bobby Brown ever feels ready to do a biopic, he might shed more light on his relationship with Whitney. All in all, this is a fantastic biopic and I’m gonna go listen to ‘Can You Stand the Rain’ and two step by myself. 9/10.
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Media courtesy of Black Entertainment Television (BET), and Jesse Collins Entertainment.