(director/writer: Reinaldo Marcus Green; screenwriters: Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zach Baylin; cinematographer: Robert Elswit; editor: Pamela Martin; music: Kris Bowers, Bob Marley; cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir (Bob Marley), Lashana Lynch (Rita Marley), James Norton (Chris Blackwell, studio boss), Umi Myers (Cindy Breakspeare), Anthony Welsh Don Taylor, Marley’s manager), Nia Ashi (young Rita), Aston Barrett Jr. (family man Barrett), Anna-Sharé Blake (Judy Mowatt), Gawaine “J-Summa” Campbell (Antonio ‘Gillie’ Gilbert), Naomi Cowan (Marcia Griffiths), Alexx A-Game (Peter Tosh), Hector ‘Roots’ Lewis (Carlton Carly Barrett), Quan-Dajai Henriques (Marley as a teen), Nadine Marshall (Marley’s mother), Michael Gandolfini (American music studio executive); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Brad Pitt, Richard Hewitt, Orly Marley, Matt Solodky; Paramount Pictures; 2024)

“It’s a plodding tribute, filled with biopic cliches, that if not for the music I would have tuned it out.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An uneven but serviceable musical biopic that’s Marley family approved. It might feature Marley’s most loved hits but does no favors to the Jamaican reggae icon by failing to get to his essence or reason for his tremendous popularity. The revered singer who had a fantastic career deserved a better film.

The Bronx born filmmaker Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”/”Joe Bell”) directs by the numbers, keeping it hero worshipping shallow. Writers Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zach Baylin, and the director never tap into what made Marley such a superstar.

The London born Kingsley Ben-Adir is fine playing Bob Marley, displaying his smile and charisma.

The Marley pic chronicles his sudden rise to world-wide fame, his political efforts to find peace through music, his belief in the Rastafari religion, and it tells of his musical greatness. It also tells of his untimely murder in May of 1981 at the age of 36.

It’s a plodding tribute, filled with biopic cliches, that if not for the music I would have tuned it out. It flatly tells us about the complex singer who fathered 11 children with different women in extra-marital affairs, and whose life’s credo was to seek peace, compassion and unity for his country.

Marley started professionally singing in 1963, in Kingston, with the Wailers (Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer). Their debut album was The Wailing Wailers in 1965, which included the single “One Love.”

The film opens in a divided and violent Jamaica in 1976. In 1962 Jamaica is free from Great Britain, but there are rival factions fighting in the streets for power before the upcoming elections. Despite the dangers, Marley and his band, The Wailers, do a free show to try and curb the violence. But there’s an attempt on his life and on the life of his wife Rita (Lashana Lynch) in their home. Afterwards Marley lands in London, to live there permanently, where he records his great landmark album Exodus, which makes him a superstar around the world. Rita takes the kids to America, living with his mother (Nadine Marshall), and hubby goes on a world-wide tour with his album.

The film stagnates as it introduces through flashbacks the period between 1976-1979, not doing justice to that complex period in the singer’s life. There are also flashbacks to his childhood and references made to his absent white father.

The biopic will probably be more appreciated by fans of Marley than critics.

REVIEWED ON 2/13/2024  GRADE: B-