Notorious

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Notorious Movie Poster Image
Gritty, affecting rapper biopic is too intense for kids.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 100 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 5 reviews

A lot or a little?

Parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

 Men cheat on their significant others and sometimes disrespect them. Characters speak of and engage in physically abusive behavior, and there's also drug use, drinking, and family abandonment. But there's redemption, too, and a few friends seem refreshingly loyal against a backdrop of betrayal and deceit. The film also includes the still-unsolved murders of Biggie and Tupac.

Positive role models & representations

A son defies his mother by lying to her -- apparently he's been dealing drugs; she puts him out on the streets, and he later lands in prison. But his talent and commitment to his music see him through, despite complicated entanglements.

Violence

A man roughs up the women he loves during arguments; rivals beat each other up or worse. Guns are shown, shots are fired, and two men wind up dead.

Sex

Some nudity during sex scenes -- including a woman sitting naked astride a man naked, her breasts fully bared. The same woman performs scantily clad onscreen and grabs her crotch. Some graphic discussion of sex acts.

Language

Frequent, colorful swearing -- from "bitch" to "s--t" and "f--k."

Consumerism

A fair amount of name dropping and label flashing (sneakers and clothing, for example), and lots of bling.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Dealers -- some of whom are children -- are shown mixing and trafficking drugs (mostly crack); some characters (including a pregnant woman) are depicted buying/using it. Some smoking and plenty of drinking (champagne and everything else).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this movie about a real life rapper whose life was full of drugs, sex, and ultimately lethal violence. Because the movie is well made and exciting, kids might feel it glamorizes his way of life. The gritty-but-moving biopic takes an unflinching look at the life and death of rapper Notorious B.I.G. Raised on the hard-scrabble streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the groundbreaking musician carried guns, dealt drugs, went to prison, fell in love, cheated on his wife (and his girlfriend) ... and was gunned down at the age of 24. All of these events and more unfold onscreen -- accompanied by strong profanity, drinking, nudity, violence, and drug use -- making for a movie that's not only too intense for early teens and younger but one that demands discussion with older teens.

User Reviews

Parent of a 13 and 14 year old Written bymdawson6729 January 31, 2009

I cringed at all the profanity and raunchy lyrics!

For people with an appreciation of hip hop and have an interest in how the whole "East coast" vs. "West coast" thing got started this movie...
Adult Written by4Spice July 28, 2010

very good movie

i loved this movie it showed biggies life but what got me angry is that they should have told the real story most of the movie is real but the part where biggi...
Teen, 15 years old Written bysillypuddy421 June 15, 2009

it was realy good

an amazing movie that shows the life of Biggie Smalls
Kid, 12 years old November 13, 2010

great movie especially if your a biggie fan like me!

great music, storyline just to me a wonderful movie. a bit conceerning tho sex f words and drug dealing and use.

What's the story?

Long before he found fame as a rapper, Christopher Wallace -- aka Biggie Smalls/Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard) -- was a Brooklyn boy with a talent for rhythm and rhyme, scribbling poetic lyrics furiously on the steps of his building. Despite his mother Voletta's (Angela Bassett) watchful eye and protective embrace, the call of the streets proves too loud, and soon he's trading crack at the corner. Later, he ends up doing time for his crimes, but music is a bigger lure, and Biggie knows it's his path to salvation and survival. But there are plenty of detours and obstacles ahead of him.

Is it any good?

Rapper, son, father, lover, and poet, Biggie was a complicated man; NOTORIOUS does its best to render him fully, and it almost succeeds. There are lots of fascinating details (for instance, that young Christopher changed clothes on the roof of his building so that Voletta wouldn't wonder where he was getting the money to buy expensive name brands) and tons of drama (the implosion of Biggie's friendship with Tupac; the love triangle with Lil' Kim and Faith Evans).

Credit is due to the casting director who wisely picked Woolard, a rapper-actor who steps into Biggie's shoes and wears them more than comfortably. His Biggie is finely tuned, and he commands the mic in nearly the same way the rapper once did. The rest of the cast -- Derek Luke as Puffy, Anthony Mackie as Tupac -- also excels. Still, with so much ground to cover, Notorious glosses over moments -- how Biggie put his groundbreaking rhymes together and decided what stayed and went, for one -- on which it should linger. And with so much time spent on his troubles, the reconciliations and triumphs -- his impact on the music scene, for instance -- feel rushed. Nonetheless, Notorious rightly lets Biggie's music take center stage. Every time it comes on, we're reminded of Biggie's notoriety, charm, and genius.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what appeals to teens about Biggie. Do they feel the film glamorizes him?

  • Do your teens think the movie is an accurate portrayal? Sympathetic? Critical?

  • How do your teens feel about Biggie's lyrics? And what messages do they take away from both his music and his life? Can they tell what the biases of the film makers are?

  • The film portrays Notorious B.I.G. and the world of hip-hop/rap. How does that industry, in turn, influence people who listen to the music it produces? Why do you think they've been so popular with both listeners and critics?

  • How accurate do you think the movie is? Why might filmmakers add or alter the truth in movies based on true stories?

Movie details

For kids who love biopics

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