Lifetime’s Aaliyah Biopic: Five Reasons It All Went Wrong


Let’s just face facts — Lifetime’s Aaliyah biopic, “Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” was destined to be a disaster.

The family wanted no part of it, cast members were dropping out left and right — Wendy Williams very involvement basically doomed this thing from the start.

And while I embrace my role as the Internet’s Biggest Hater, I tried to give it a chance. When half y’all were complaining about the skin color of actresses like a bunch of digital plantation owners, I chilled. When I heard that the movie wouldn’t be allowed to use ANY of Aaliyah’s hit songs, I chilled. I mean, unless Aaliyah herself floated down from heaven to star in the movie, Aaliyah stans were gonna complain anyway. I didn’t put stock in their whining.

But 10 minutes into the airing of the movie I had to admit that the critics were right. Lord, this movie was a train wreck.

Here are five reasons why Lifetime should take Aaliyah’s advice — Try Again.

Stevie Wonder must have been in charge of casting

When  Alexandra Shipp was cast in the lead role, there was a ton of backlash about her looking “too Asian” which is as stupid as saying that Will Smith didn’t look Muslim enough to play Ali or something. An actress doesn’t have to look like a carbon copy of the person they’re portraying but, yes, there should be some similarities. However, there were NO similarities when it came to other actors and their famous counterparts.

THIS is supposed to be Missy Elliott????

missy aaliyah movie

Clearly the casting director started listening to hip-hop in 2005. Missy may be trim now but when she first met Aaliyah she had to be like 250 pounds! At least throw some finger waves on the chick!  Missy, Timbaland, Gladys Knight, Damon Dash — it’s like the director ran to the mall 3 minutes before shooting and asked people working at Auntie Anne’s pretzels  “hey, you wanna be in a movie?” It was just laughable.

 Fake R. Kelly

Speaking of actors who looked nothing like the characters they were supposed to portray, I couldn’t tell if Cle Bennett was playing R. Kelly or Joe or Tommy from Martin.

r kelly aaliyah movie

But what we did get was False Kelly being the most disgusting man alive. He spent his first few scenes being an outright bully before lusting over 15-year-old Aaliyah. Trust me, this joint turned into ‘How to Catch a Predator’ REAL quick. The Aaliyah/Kelly love story took up the first half of film and it was very uncomfortable to watch — not only because of the implied statutory rape but the cringe-worthy dialogue. And speaking of that…

Terrible, TERRIBLE dialogue

“You ain’t gotta look at the sun to know it’s shining” — Fake Kelly laying his game down quite flat.

The movie featured some of the most stilted dialogue this side of the Twilight saga. Aaliyah, by all accounts a very warm and down-to-earth person, was reduced to talking in parables like some sort of Twitter philosopher. The script sounded like it was pieced together from the Facebook statuses of 13-year-old girls.

No recognizable Aaliyah songs

Well, we knew this was gonna be a problem, but I didn’t realize how MUCH of a problem until it unfolded before our ears. We only heard Aaliyah sing songs from fourth-grade talent shows, along with her covers of songs like “At Your Best” (which at least was a single) and “Got To Give It Up” (which you probably didn’t even know she covered unless you copped her second album). Shipp also performed a very, very weak version of the forgotten “Journey to the Past” and, for some odd reason, “The One I Gave My Heart To.” Not sure how that one slipped through the cracks.

The rest of the music was reduced to knockoff Timbaland beats and mock Jay-Z songs.

Think of it like this: last year’s TLC biopic wasn’t a Oscar-worthy flick, but the musical performances were so great that the nostalgia made it entertaining. The Aaliyah biopic had mostly cheap knockoffs, which in turn made the film seem like a cheap knockoff. NBA 2K15 had a better soundtrack.

The rushed, abrupt conclusion

A lot of folks complained about the end of the movie, where Aaliyah just waved goodbye to Damon Dash before flying off to tragedy. There’s not much more they could have done — the last thing I wanted to see was some fake plane made of Legos smashing on someone’s kitchen floor to simulate a crash. But I do agree that they could have done better than showing a cheap powerpoint slide that basically said “Aaliyah died after this, goodnight folks!”

“Aaliyah: The Princess of R&B” was a complete disaster, but even though the producers’ hands were tied, they could have done so much better — better casting, better dialogue, better editing (I swear they edited this thing in iMovie) and much better pacing (the movie was pretty much The R. Kelly Show, then rushed through the Tim and Missy era to tack on Dame Dash, then it was over).

Sigh, I should have listened to Timbaland.

There’s one good thing that came out of the night — Twitter’s casting of future biopics. Bless you, social media.


What did you think of this terrible, terrible movie? Let a brother know in the comments.



  1. You nailed it! It was horrible!!!!!

  2. This should have been treated more like “Dreamgirls.” Everybody knows that was based on the Supremes, but they did just enough in the play and movies to avoid legal challenges from Diana Ross. She’s threatened to sue for years but can’t. They should have said this movie was “loosely based on the life of Aaliyah.”

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