"Turn It Up" is the latest example of a recent trend in motion pictures to make movies as advertisements for some ancillary product. "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace" was an ad for the computer game; "Pokemon" pushed trading cards; "Dinosaur" sold Happy Meals; and "Ready To Rumble" hyped the TNT wrestling show "WCW Monday Nitro."
Following in the commercial and artistic footsteps of those films, "Turn It Up" seems to exist for no earthly reason other than to sell its soundtrack album.
Fugees founder Prakazrel ("Pras") Michel stars as Diamond, a dimwitted but musically gifted rap artist whose lust for the good life usually trumps his judgment. Ja Rule, another rapper, plays Diamond's best friend, a trigger-happy squirt who wants to get into music for "money, drugs and ho's." Whether you want to spend an hour and a half of your only life watching this charmless duo make their way through Manhattan's nether precincts depends on your threshold for inane dialogue, phlegmatic pacing and florid John Woo-like shoot-'em-ups.
Midway through the movie, Vondie Curtis Hall shows up as Diamond's feckless father, who teaches his son the value of real instruments over sampling, and engages in egregious fake-Keith-Jarret piano playing. Presumably, he also teaches Diamond that family comes first. But by the end of the show, he's forgotten. So much for family values.
Pras makes the worst pop-star-to-actor transition since Rick Springfield hit the screen; director Robert Adetuyi makes a muddle of an already addle-headed concept. What "Turn It Up" is selling is admittedly compelling: The soundtrack is terrific. But wise shoppers will skip the commercial and go straight to Napster.
'Turn It Up'
Starring Pras, Ja Rule
Directed by Robert Adetuyi
Released by New Line Pictures
Running time 87 minutes
Rated R (strong violence and language and some drug content)
Sun score: *