David Browne
February 03, 1995 AT 05:00 AM EST

Murder Was the Case: The Movie

Current Status
In Season
Mystery and Thriller, musical

We gave it a C+

Women are demeaned, the stars toke up, expletives get bleeped-and, hey, that all happens before the 18-minute centerpiece of Murder Was the Case: The Movie. Starring Snoop Doggy Dogg and directed by his producer and mentor, Dr. Dre, ”Murder Was the Case” was first heard as a fuzzy gangsta-gone-wrong parable on Snoop’s Doggystyle album. Not surprisingly, it makes more sense when fleshed out on screen. In an intrinsically unchallenging role, Snoop plays himself-i.e., a lanky-as-a-joint homeboy with a deadened face. Shot and killed by a lover’s jealous boyfriend, he’s resurrected by a (white) devil who grants him eternal life, with a hokey Twilight Zone twist at movie’s end.

The soundtrack blares Dre’s rich, melodic G-funk tracks, yet Dre hasn’t devised a distinctive visual equivalent. His movie is murky and grainy, and as a director, he piles on every action-flick cliché, from exploding cars to people who sail through plate-glass windows after being shot. Meanwhile, the dialogue (”Don’t be callin’ my bitch no ho!”) won’t convince anyone that Dre, who wrote the script with Philip G. Atwell, has taken sensitivity courses lately.

Since a quarter-hour movie does not a long-form video make, the 50-minute tape has been fleshed out with Snoop videos, performance footage, and interviews. In the alternately silly and repugnant clips, Snoop glides through a world in which liquor and women are for the taking. What’s disturbing is that his real life doesn’t appear to be much different (he’s shown behind the scenes hanging out with sycophantic buddies). Still, you can’t take your eyes off Snoop. With his droopy lids and no-one-home coldness, he exudes a lackadaisical arrogance, yet he can also flash a genuinely warm smile. Snoop has real screen potential, and in more ways than one: At one point during the backstage footage, he complains to Dre about having to stand too close to a blazing ambulance. Suddenly, the surly, hardened rapper sounds like a whiny, pampered actor. C+

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