Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B

Movie review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B Movie Poster Image
Bland biopic with a few mature references.
  • NR
  • 2015
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The importance of family and the value of hard work are major themes. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Aaliyah's family is close and protective.

Violence

A major argument results in yelling and shoving. Aaliyah's death is referenced but not shown. 

Sex

Aaliyah's alleged secret (and illegal) teen marriage to R. Kelly is discussed. Some costumes are midriff-revealing. 

Language
Consumerism

Music by Aaliyah and other artists featured. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking (champagne, cocktails, sake) at infrequent social events. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the TV movie Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B contains positive themes about the importance of family and being willing to work hard to reach your goals. There also are some mature themes, including the portrayal of an illicit marriage and an argument that results in some shoving. The late singer's violent death is briefly referenced. Some drinking (champagne, cocktails) is occasionally visible at social events. Not surprisingly, it features lots of Aaliyah's music and a few other artists' work. 

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What's the story?

The TV movie AALIYAH: THE PRINCESS OF R&B chronicles the short life of Aaliyah Dana Haughton, aka R&B star Aaliyah. The biopic stars Alexandra Shipp as the young, ambitious singer and actress who spends her youth working toward stardom. Helping her along the way are her mother and father (Rachael Crawford and Sterling Jarvis), her uncle and manager Barry Hankerson (Lyriq Bent), her brother Rashad (A.J. Saudin), and her aunt, famed singer Gladys Knight (played by Elise Neal). From her early performance on Star Search to her controversial relationship with singer/producer R. Kelly, the feature details the experiences that highlighted the singer's brief but outstanding career. 

Is it any good?

Hip-hop and R&B fans also will enjoy the music, and the movie successfully underscores that Aaliyah's music lives on. Based on Christopher Farley's book, Aaliyah: More Than a Woman, the movie highlights some key moments in the singer's professional and personal life, including her alleged secret marriage to R. Kelly when she was only 15 and her decision to work with then little-known producer Timbaland and rapper Missy Elliott on her second album. It also features lots of full-length musical presentations, many of which are reenactments of some of Aaliyah's most notable live performances, while others recreate what it was like for her in the recording studio. 

The gaps between these moments are often quite big and make the narrative feel fragmented and superficial. Meanwhile, attempts to inspire through dramatized conversations between Aaliyah and her family drag on. But fans of the late singer will be drawn to it and may find the background on Aaliyah's relationships with now well-known artists interesting.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about biographical films. How accurate does a film or TV show have to be to be considered a biography? Do creators need the consent of a person (or a person's family) to produce a film or TV biography about someone? What if the person or the person's family doesn't like it?

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