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‘Bob Marley: One Love’ and ‘Madame Web’ both disappoint

Feb 15, 2024 10:31AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

Bob Marley: One Love (in theaters) 

A man as dynamic as Bob Marley should have a more interesting biopic. 

That’s the disappointing part of “Bob Marley: One Love,” which opened in theaters this week. Though it’s not a terrible movie by any means, the bland, surface-level recounting of the basic facts of Marley’s life does nothing to capture his multi-faceted personality or real power. Though Marley’s music and Kingsley Ben-Adir’s great performance do manage to stir some emotion, it’s so much less than the man himself deserves. 

The movie follows his life from Marley’s 1976 shooting to his 1978 One Love Peace Concert, meant to heal Jamaica from the political violence that divided it. Flashbacks to earlier years are peppered in between those two points, including his absent, plantation-owning white father and meeting his wife as a teenager. The movie is also careful to highlight Marley’s Rastafarian beliefs and how they affected his life, including his desire to share his music with everyone no matter the danger or lack of resources. 

Sadly, the movie is careful to keep any of Marley’s contradictions safely off the screen. It highlights his relationship with his wife, but almost entirely ignores the fact that he fathered several children outside of the marriage. His impoverished childhood and the impact it had on him is also barely mentioned, as well as how Jamaica’s desire for independence from Britain shaped his music. Marley’s complexity is part of what made him so great, but this movie forgets that.

Thankfully, they do have Ben-Adir. Though he looks nothing like Marley, the actor does an excellent job capturing Marley’s passion for the music and incredible on-stage presence. Watching him create and sing is some of the best parts of the movie, and when you add Marley’s incredible music there are moments when you feel the full force of his power. 

If only the rest of the movie let you feel the same thing. 

Grade: Two stars  

Madame Web (in theaters) 

“Madame Web” isn’t quite as bad as 2022’s “Morbius,” but it’s awfully close. 

The movie, a soulless attempt to start a Spider-Girls franchise that will now never get off the ground, is a clunky plot-mash with bad CGI and zero opportunity for character development. The dialogue ranges from cheesy to terrible, thanks to “Morbius” screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burke Sharpless, and the visual tricks meant to show Madame Web’s visions will leave audiences with a headache. Worst of all, otherwise solid actor Tahir Rahim is such a genuinely terrible villain that I couldn’t help but yearn for “Morbius”’s Matt Smith to show up and save us all with his scenery-chewing. 

Most frustrating of all were the glimpses of a better movie sometimes visible through the cracks. Dakota Johnson may have been an unusual choice to play Madame Web, but she gives the character a dry humor and awkward sympathy that humanizes her far more than the script. The trio of future Spider Girls – Sydney Sweeney, Isabela Merced, and Celeste O’Connor – also do everything they can to enliven the few moments onscreen the movie gives them. It’s the interactions between them that occasionally let you see something different, lonely girls finding a family in each other, but the plot races on before we can catch more than a glimpse. 

If only that was the vision the “Madame Web” creative team had listened to. 

Grade: One and a half stars

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