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In this movie based on the early days of Def Jam Recordings, up-and-coming manager Russell Walker manages all the hottest acts on the record label Krush Groove Records, which include Run-D.M.C., Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Kurtis Blow, while Rick (Rubin) produces the label's records. When Run-D.M.C. has a hit record and Russell doesn't have the money to press records, he borrows money from a street hustler. At the same time, Russell and and his brother Run both compete for the heart of R&B singer Sheila E. Written by
LL Cool J appears as himself in a scene halfway through the film where he auditions for Rick and the other Krush Groove management team. In that scene, it is presumed that LL Cool J is an unknown. However, near the beginning of the film, when Sheila E. is performing "A Love Bizarre" in a club, the name "LL Kool J" (sic) can be seen written on the chalkboard behind her on stage. The chalkboard is still seen during other performances before LL Cool J makes his appearance. See more »
It's impossible, or close to it, to try and talk about Krush Groove the way that a usual movie review would go about it. I can't really speak much to the quality of the direction as it's by a hack (the director Michael Schultz has such illustrious credits to him like Car Wash, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Rock 'n' Roll Mom), and while the cinematographer is a man with some name recognition for buffs, Ernest Dickerson, of many of Spike Lee's best films, it too isn't anything to write at length in detailed form (save maybe for one interior bedroom scene at Sheila E's place in the middle of the night that's kind of moody). And the plot, oh, don't go there too fast.
If I had to try and sum up the story it would have to just come down to this: it's got two stories, one more dramatic and one more comic, more or less (emphasis on that really), and one is about the start of the careers of rappers RUN DMC, Kurtis Blow and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde via Russell Simmons and Def Jam Records, plus Sheila E, and the other is about, yup, The Fat Boys, the rappers who are up to no good at the Sbarro's All-You-Can-Eat buffet.
But if I were to tell someone about this movie, or more to the point tell them if Krush Groove is worth they're time on Netflix or to seek out on DVD, then telling about the story would be third or fourth, if at all, on my list of things to talk about. It's got a story about as complicated as that of Burlesque, only with slightly better (just slightly, like by a nose-hair's length) dialog.
No, no, good reader, see this because it's got mother-busting RUN DMC, Kurtis Blow, (most of all for some guilty-pleasure fans) The Fat Boys, and a slew of other memorable and not-so-memorable old-school rap acts out of the mid 1980's NYC rap scene. It's a time and place that seems so ancient now even as it was still part of the post-modern era that we're in now. It's got some lay-overs from the 70's- a disco club that the rappers go to after a gig, for example, and some of the music seems to carry over from it in the beats- but its really its own thing.
For me it's nothing short of amazing that aside from the talent that is actually on display, how effective Run and DMC and everyone else were at the time of crafting they're raps to be about things, if only sometimes about having fun, is that it's a rap age that had an innocence to it. This isn't to say Kurtis Blow or other rappers like Grandmaster Flash didn't rap about real s**t going on in the streets, but the tone was different, less of the "Bitches and money" crappola that's sunken rap into the shitter for so long.
To see the rappers in this movie, from the main acts to the "smaller" ones (um, LL Cool J and The Beastie Boys for brief appearances), are to see acts that can stupify with the ease with which they lay their tricky rock-and-rhymes. Not all of the acts blow one out of the water- Sheila E's first song (not the Hollyrock, the other one) is weak, and New Edition, well, let's not go their shall we into aluminum-foil suit-ville.
But the ones that do make the movie a lot of fun, as nostalgia and just as straight musical entertainment that flows well. And when it means to be a comedy, as silly as it can be with those joyful idiot Fat Boys, it's very funny (the buffet I mentioned before had me cracking up laughing, and I knew it was intentional comedy thankfully). It's when it's a drama that it's a little shakier since not all of the actors, even the real ones like Blair Underwood playing the Simmons surrogate, have much experience. They do alright, but it's a storyline that is so cookie cutter it's biggest shock is how fast it goes through the motions.
Krush Groove, sadly, didn't become bigger than E.T. like the original bet was between Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in Kevin Smith's Dogma. But in its own right, for some, maybe it had (or could have?) just as much a special place on the video shelf. It works best as a slice of a time period, with some dated clothes and still funky and wicked beats and Rick Rubin (!) and cool rhymes done by people who know what they're doing. Sometimes with a music movie I just want to be able to go as soon as the movie ends to check out as much of the music as possible. You can rest assured, and hopefully this is the big recommendation, a Fat Boys CD will be coming express mail by the end of this week.
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