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“Bob Marley” biopic has much love, especially for the music

Bob Marley: One Love

Starring Kingsley Ben-Adir, Lashana Lynch, James Norton, Tosin Cole, Umi Myers, Anthony Welsh, Nia Ashi, Aston Barrett Jr., Anna-Sharé Blake, Gawaine “J-Summa” Campbell, Naomi Cowan, Alexx A-Game, Davo and Michael Gandolfini. Written by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zach Baylin and Reinaldo Marcus Green. Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. Now playing in theatres everywhere. 107 minutes. PG

⭐️⭐️½ (out of 4)

Peter Howell

Movie Critic

In “Natural Mystic,” Bob Marley’s spiritual song of prophecy, the late reggae superstar addressed the futility of attempting to recreate the past — and the need to be truthful about that reality.

“Though I know it’s impossible to go living through the past, don’t tell no lie,” he sang.

Heard early in “Bob Marley: One Love,” a flawed but worthy biopic, the famous tune feels like a dare: Could anyone revisit and “tell no lie” about the man’s music, life, global influence and personal contradictions in a film running less than two hours? Marley died of cancer in 1981 at the age of 36, but he packed a lot into his short stay on Earth as an innovative musician, cultural revolutionary and peace advocate.

Director/co-writer Reinaldo Marcus Green (“King Richard”) gamely takes up the “impossible” challenge, bolstered by the endorsement and participation of members of the Marley family, including Bob’s widow Rita, son Ziggy and daughter Cedella, who are credited as producers.

Good intentions abound. The fine British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir (“One Night in Miami …”) plays Marley, Jamaica’s most famous son. Ben-Adir was selected for his empathetic acting, not for his musical skills (voice and guitar lessons were needed) or his resemblance to Marley, which requires some squinting to accept. Height was another hurdle: Ben-Adir stands six-foot-two, considerably taller than the five-foot-six Marley.

The actor mastered Marley’s lilting vocal cadence, his evangelical fervour as a disciple of Rastafarianism and the ecstatic whirl of his onstage dancing. Ben-Adir does some singing, but unlike Rami Malek’s conjuring of Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” most of the vocals are from actual Marley recordings, not from a sound-alike singer.


(Originally published in the Toronto Star.)


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