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IN SHORT: Smooth and satisfying. The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission.
You can't be a teenager forever. That was the case, literally and figuratively, for doo-wop singer Frankie Lymon, whose hits were hot just before Cranky was conceived back in 1956. You do the math, I've always admitted being an old fogey. Doo-wop was an a capella (no instruments) music that came out of the ghetto at about the same time rock 'n' roll reared its gloriously ugly head. For Cranky, who used to work in the rock 'n' roll biz, these oldies were goodies long before Frankie Lymon met his wretched end, a needle hanging out of his arm. Why Do Fools Fall In Love began it's life as a telling of that side of the story, but ended up as something quite different. Now, usually, the end of the end of August means major pain for those of us who sit in the dark for a living, as this is when films not believed to have potential for big things are usually dumped. Cranky knew that the soundtrack for Why Do Fools Fall In Love, all synched to the original rock recordings, would ease the pain. He wasn't prepared for what can best described as a rock 'n' roll catfight, as the based-on-true story of the battling widows of Lymon plays itself out. If you're not so deep into rap that you can rock to a simpler roll, you'll have a real fine time.
The meteoric rise of Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, and their equally meteoric fall after the group broke up and Lymon went solo, was a sad enough tale when it was new. Seen from the woman's perspective, Frankie Lymon was, at times, a charmer, a thief, a liar and a manipulative junkie; A wide and wild eyed performance by Larenz Tate, as Lymon, of a rock 'n' roller burned out at twenty-two (give or take) keeps you sympathetic to the man who can only see that life has passed him by when he's still got 60 years coming to him. Recreating the stage moves for hits like "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," "Goody Goody" and "I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent" from old television tapes, Tate gives a pretty good feel for what the real act looked like. It must've been something.
We begin in 1981, when a Diana Ross cover of the title song sparks images of dollar signs in the head of convicted prostitute, drug abuser and thief Elizabeth Waters (Vivica A. Fox), a single (but not legally divorced) mom who was rescued from a shoplifting bust by the down but not out Lymon, circa 1961. A demand for dollars brings her to the offices of Roulette Records prez Morris Levy (Paul Mazursky) who ripped off Lymon and Co.'s copyrights and made himself wealthy, in the manner of record execs of the 50s and 60s. In the same office at the same time is Zola Taylor (Halle Berry), a writer and singer with the Platters ("Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and "The Great Pretender") who knew Lymon first and married him second. The claws come out immediately, as the women have known of each other for a long time. Their Rashoman-like retelling of the story of their first encounter is a hilarious pairing. Watch for it.
Levy's third trump card is a prissy little Southern school marm, Elmira Eagle (Lela Rochon), claiming the gold ring at the time of Frankie's death. Off to court we go, with the ever lovely Pamela Reed, yes she is, as presiding judge. First on the stand is the ever boisterous Queen of Rock 'n' Roll, Little Richard, who begins the narration of Frankie's flashback life, starting with a kinescoped cameo by rock 'n' roll name-DJ Alan Freed and a recreated television performance of The Teenager's signature tune.
Folks, if you like the music, you're just gonna love Little Richard as his current self (Miguel A. Nunez Jr. plays the younger L.R.) telling the history from a first person perspective. As it moves on, Why Do Fools Fall In Love lays out more as a tale of three "enemies" finding a common ground and a logical solution to their mutual problem, and closes down with a nasty, and very funny, twist. The performances are all very enjoyable, but Vivica A. Fox takes the cake 'cuz she gets to play the low down and dirty mouthed greedster, who pulls the "classy" and "glamourous" Berry down into the verbal gutter. There ain't been a good fight like this since the heyday of Dynasty.
Have a good time.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Why Do Fools Fall In Love, he would have paid . . .
Fools Fall In Love is much too good to be dumped in the lazy, hazy,
crazy days of summer... (apologies to the late Nat King Cole).
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