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The Black Boy Joy Movement

The New Edition Story officially aired this week!

When I tell you guys that I have been following this project since they began casting for it, the anticipation has been so real. -Before I dissect each night of the mini series and give an overall thought, let me just start with a quick shout-out to all those who made this monster of a biopic. Without a doubt, Jessie Collins and Chris Robinson outdid themselves.  I support Chris Robinson’s vision one-thousand percent with every project he works on. His film’s have a look and picture quality that make you feel apart and I adore that. I can not go on without making mention of the all star casting done by the infamous Robi Reed. The guys were impeccably chosen, as expected. I couldn’t even attempt to pick a breakout star from the bunch because everyone honestly gave their all and it radiated through the television screen.

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Woody McClain had one of the toughest jobs simply because of the expectation, from an entertainment standpoint, and the whole Bobby Brown stigma. However, he did nothing less than superb. Woody delivered. Every. Single. Scene.

We all know how outstanding Elijah Kelley is in all of his bodies of work, so his portrayal of Ricky Bell did not fall short by any means.

Luke James served us some old school Johnny Gill and I was elated about that, being a South Louisiana girl.

Algee Smith bodied his role as Ralph Tresvant, from presence to performance.

Prior to getting a better feel of the other guys, the role that I was most excited to see was Bryshere Gray’s portrayal of Michael Bivins and, let me just say, it was a slam dunk. Bryshere portrayed Mike B from the voice to the effortless swag.

Surprisingly enough, the role that had and held my attention, unexpectedly, was that of Ronnie Devoe, played by Mr. Keith Powers. Keith gave me a silent charm that was still cool and so Devoe.

Overall, all these guys were phenomenal and you can tell from the press that a bond was formed among the actors and I look forward to seeing all of them progress even further in the future.

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Let’s just jump straight into Night One.

The intro was so lively and immediately threw us into the world of New Edition. It was like a backstage pass to the viewers, so I was immediately intrigued.

I, personally, am a person that enjoys stories that start from the conflict and go back to lay the backstory of how we got there. So, I was already in love after the opener.

From start to finish, the kids portraying the band in their early years were absolutely outstanding. We had Myles Truitt as Ronnie Devoe, Jahi Winston as Ralph Tresvant, Tyler Williams as Bobby Brown, Caleb McLaughlin as Ricky Bell, and Dante Hoagland as Michael Bivins.

Let me just say that the music was everything and all the feels that these old classics gave were much needed. I literally was singing LDT & His Band’s “Holding On” the entire next day.

Jahi and Caleb’s vocals were incredible! One of the most precious scenes, to me, was when the two little boys’ serenade Zena, Ralph’s longtime love interest.  -And of course, every scene with Brooke Payne (aka Stro), played by Wood Harris, had my full attention because  of how captivating and authentic Wood’s portrayal was. He truly embodied everything that Brooke Payne seems to be.

We, then, go on to add Ronnie to the group, which leads to my special shout-out to the little boy that played Roland Devoe, Ronnie’s little brother. Roland gave me everything in his one scene. (I just had to throw that in really quickly.)

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The film goes on to show the boys journey toward the spotlight and gives us a little backstory for Ralph’s character, being presented with the option to leave the other boys behind and become the next Michael Jackson. What an ultimatum to present a child with?

Fast-forward to the first international tour and the transition happens from the little cast members to the big guys.

Let me just speak on how phenomenal this transition was.Often times, you watch biopics that involve a character from childhood to adulthood and they just abruptly throw this adult version of them up on the screen without warning. It’s like the character goes to sleep a 5 year old and wakes up 15. This particular transition was subtle and just so well done. There was no question of whose who after we switched guys.

Don’t even get me started on the change in vocals that took place along with it. It was perfect! They paid attention to every detail in this film and that is what set it apart. The segments with the mothers were also well done.

I think the biggest shock, to me, in this first movie was Ralph’s offer to go solo at such a young age and the $1.87 check after a world tour to split five ways was also offsetting. –How dreadful, right? Then, we add insult to injury with the mother’s voting to fire

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Brooke, falsely accusing him of the evident robbery that had happening with the boys’ compensation. That probably was the first scene that had me a little teary eyed. This firing of Brooke led to a switch in management and we end up in California, at MCA Records, where Ralph becomes the star of New Edition. Meanwhile, the others become his backup dancers.

The authenticity of episode one set the tone for the other nights to come and I was pleasantly surprised at what we were able to get in that first two hours.

For one, the uncensored language I was kind of grateful for because I wanted it to feel real. However, I’d have to say that the wow moment that made me think like, “Damn, they are really giving us everything!” was the clip of the boys getting caught in was seemed to be an ‘orgy’ with some Soul Train dancers. I was stunned and tickled all at once.

That first episode also planted seeds of a possible division brewing between the boys as Ralph was given the role of lead and everyone else seemingly were becoming disposable.

Night Two shifted us further into the guys’ road to maturity and their individual storylines.

Ralph is pushed further into the spotlight and Bobby’s rebellion begins. I think this night was the slowest one of the three, for me, but it was also the most informative. This was sort of expected because in every biopic there is that vital portion that gives you more of the groundwork of the story.

I was totally here for the acts of brotherhood throughout their tension, like in the fight between Mike and Bobby and its resolve. We had tons playful commentary that made us laugh and get a better feel of their friendship.

Now, let’s just get into this cover the cast did of “Mr. Telephone Man”.

I was in absolute awe! Woody McClain has some vocals and Bryshere’s speaking part was every spit of Michael Bivins.

By the way, having the actors do covers of these classic songs and remastering them for the movie made things even more authentic. I heard Babyface was involved in the studio sessions for this miniseries, so that alone is dope.

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The reunion of the boys and Stro was everything, to me, because we were all emotionally invested in Brook Payne’s character.

What I enjoyed most in this installment of the miniseries was that we saw that all the guys had their own antics and mischiefs, not just Bobby. So, there was no squeaky clean reputation for any of the members of the group.

The guys were dealing with Bob becoming a teenage father and the possibility of Ralph becoming one, which was quite heavy issues at their age. However, Bobby’s need for stardom and individuality that had been brewing since Night One reared its head in Night Two. Thus, resulting in drug usage and other antics.

Kudos to Woody for being so amazingly talented and knocking Bobby Brown out of the park this night!

The breakdown of the musical industry in this second movie was so well articulated. In Mike’s discovery of the business side of the music industry, we found that the boys had no deal with MCA Records and were actually signed to Fast Break, their manager’s label. Gaining insight on the specifications of their deal, the film did a great job of dissecting the terms of some entertainment contractual agreements and how they can be misinterpreted.

We get a glimpse of Ralph feeling distant from the other guys and being pressured to follow in Bobby’s footsteps, as a solo act, by his girlfriend. This leads him to making irrational decisions and thinking more as a single intensity. Thus, leading the others to feel as though their livelihood is in jeopardy, without a lead singer.

This leads to Mike’s recruitment of Johnny Gill, to ensure success without Ralph, and that leads to a sense betrayal between the two.

The big moments from this particular episode, for me, would have been the scene where Mike fired Gary, Ralph’s “David Ruffin” moment with Ronnie, Ricky, and Mike, and that bomb cover of “Can You Stand The Rain” once Luke James officially entered the group.

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Night Three, the big finale, had a lot of ground to cover and BET made sure to cover everything.

This final installment dealt heavily with Ronnie and Ricky and did not disappoint at all!

Night Three, for me, was the absolute best night!

First off, they came straight out the gate with the “If It Isn’t Love” music video, which is arguably a cult classic.

Then, we fall straight into the comical explanation of Bobby Brown’s Gumby haircut in the “Every Little Step” music video. F

rom there, it was just nonstop amazing footage!

The costumes, special thanks to Rita McGhee,  were amazing in all three movies. However, Night Three’s wardrobe was next level outstanding. Every look was spot-on.

The Boyz II Men moment with Mike Biv literally gave me chills. I think that was that biggest moment for Bryshere’s skills as an actor portraying an artist because there was an authenticity  about that scene that I can not even begin to explain.

They also made it a point to show Bobby’s attitude begin to shift more towards missing being apart of New Edition and not knowing how to communicate those feelings, resulting in more arrogant, self-centered antics.

The cast and crew literally nailed New Edition’s “Tension Interview” and dissected every music video remake.

Then, the movie moves six years ahead to the Home Again Tour, and from there, it was just golden.

Every second deserved your undivided attention.

Let me just say Bobby Brown being asleep prior to the album cover shoot was hilarious and the tour bus scene was epic. The visuals, alone, for the rest of the movie deserved an award.

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Night Three gave us the biggest wow of the entire miniseries, in my opinion. This huge moment was the reveal Ricky Bell’s struggle with substance abuse simply because it wasn’t common knowledge.

The fight scene that followed it also was big for the miniseries because it was our intro and the moment that all the other movies had led up to. -And am I the only one who damn near fell out when Brooke had the heart attack?  -Shout out to Keith Powers for selling us some heavy emotion in that scene and showing us his range.

When Johnny Gill yells to Bobby, “What? -You ain’t did shit for me!” I was weakened with laughter.

Then, I immediately fell into a depression when Mike tells Ricky, “What you clinging on to, Slick? We ain’t friends anymore. -We ain’t even no damn business partners.”

The desperation that Mr. Elijah Kelley gave us in that scene was that outstanding acting that we just don’t see enough of anymore. Then, he went on to further nail it in the following scene with his on-screen wife, Amy.

The time the guys spent apart was so touching and the perfect lead up to that big finale.

Ronnie and Shamari’s scene was the  epitome of Black Love. It made me miss those black weddings in the 90’s, where everyone was pristine, music was jumping, and you just felt love all around you.

Keith Powers’s scenes from that point on were so well-expressed and the chemistry in the scene with he and Shamari was so sweet and innocent.

This is where we get that magical line that set the tone for everything to follow, “That’s New Edition. We are good together, we just can’t get it together.”

Then, the last thirty minutes of the movie would go on to leave me weeping like Jesus.

It’s the day of the Devoe wedding and the first NE member to arrive is Bobby.

When Ronnie opened that door to Bobby, who is ‘looking for a mellow fellow named Devoe’, I immediately started the waterworks. The exchange between Woody and Keith, in this scene, was so realistic and heart rendering. You felt the bond they shared.

“You’ve always been the glue, no matter what, you the one that kept us together. -And I know when I pushed you too far, I went too far.”

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All the guys begin to trickle in.

There’s playful commentary, but Rizz and Mike have tension that is resolved later at the wedding.

Then, we get to Stro’s speech at the reception, which was beautifully scripted and just brought all the feels.

The guys get together and Ronnie, accompanied by the rest of the fellows, starts to serenade his bride with ‘Candy Girl’, which didn’t help my waterworks any.

Might I add that it is so refreshing to see young, black men in suits. I was just here for all of it.

The finale scene, BET’s 25th Anniversary Special, is what everything was riding on and they delivered.

I have watched the actual performance numerous times and was obsessed with it. So, I had high expectations and was looking for some staple parts from the real performance and the creators of the film hit all the keys, for me.

First off, the flashbacks tugged at my heart and helped make the the film feel as though it had come full circle. It gave us the feeling that we’d been with guys from the very beginning and this was that big ending where everything came together.

BET gave me all of those staple parts that I was looking for. The swing out the guys do before “Candy Girl” is one of my favorites from the original performance. Then, when Bobby comes out for “Telephone Man”, I am always at the edge of my seat and Woody gave me the real performance, he served us some good ole Bobby B.

One of the major keys I was waiting for was where Mike tells Bobby, “Alright, don’t take no prisoners”and Bobby responds, “You know how I do”. When Bryshere and Woody made that exchange, it was on, for me.

The “My Prerogative” performance was my favorite from the original and the remake.

My last key was Ronnie Devoe pulling Bobby’s belt in the bridge of the song and Keith Powers gave me that gift. For that, I will forever be grateful. The only difference was that, in the actual performance, only Ralph and Ronnie accompanied Bobby during “My Prerogative”. But, my god, it was even better with everyone!

In short, that finale performance in a word was simply delicious.

The attention that was paid to detail made this movie enchanting, from the way the cast talked/walked to making sure they wore wedding bands in that final performance.

The love and dedication that everyone involved in this film had for the project was evident on-screen and I commend everyone that had a hand in this body of work.

The New Edition Story is now among some of my favorite biopics, if not the new favorite.

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Since the miniseries has ended, the question is what has this movie done for the culture and this generation?

First, shout out to all the young, sexy, talented, and intelligent black men that starred in this movie. You were all phenomenal. Also, shout-out to New Edition for sharing your story. New Edition was a group that set trends and created waves both culturally and musically.

Without doubt, their story needed to be shared and they were most deserving of such an honor. Aside from that, I feel like this movie has set a tone for a movement, outside of the obvious sharing of this super group’s journey to success.

The movement I am talking about is not so much to open the airways for other biopics, although there are some other interesting stories that should be shared. Rather, I think this movie should spark dialogue about black male excellence and brotherhood.

These men conducted themselves in a way that kept the public’s respect, regardless of the behind the scenes craziness. They did not put one another’s business out in a way that would tarnish the other’s successes. They conducted themselves as a business, from a young age, and I feel that this film showcased just that.

From remaking those classic music videos that we all know and love to scripting scenes in a way that stirred emotion from fans, the film was so detailed that you could not help but fall in love with NE all over again. It is that very attention that has made The New Edition Story rock ratings and attract attention like it has.

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Throughout their press run, the cast members of this film referenced a movement called “Black Boy Joy” and I, for one, am here for it.

These fellas have had me swooning since they began filming and I think this movie awakened that yearning to see those cool, intellectual gentlemen that can rock both a snapback and a suit. Seeing all these fine, young men in suits, celebrating one another’s success is something that is also very necessary for the culture.

I, personally, have a weakness for seeing driven, young men engaging in teamwork and forming bonds and, more importantly, a brotherhood. I feel that this project seemingly allowed Luke, Algee, Keith, Woody, Elijah, and Bryshere to form their own bond and I absolutely adore that relationship that has blossomed.

These guys have not only made a historical movie that will be with us forever, but they have become the frontrunners for this #BlackBoyJoy movement. Honestly, this film could not have been better.

Having followed the progression of this project, I feel like I have seen it grow from a seed planted into something solid, reaching its fullest potential. I am grateful that I was able to witness this, in my era, starring men in my age bracket.

I wish each cast member a ton of success, not that it’s needed because all of them killed. -And I can not wait to see those faces on my screen once again. Thank you, New Edition, for the years, the tears, the love and the lessons.  I applaud all parties involved in creating this masterpiece. Those 29 million viewers were not just deserved, but earned.

Job Well Done.

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