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The Five Heartbeats

The year is 1965, and five young guys aim for fame with a sloppy but impassioned vocal group. They're a bit Four Tops, a bit Temptations, and a lot Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, since starstruck songwriter 'Duck' (Townsend) seems conceived as an adoring homage to the acknowledged laureate of soul. The film stands mainly on its characterisations, and the band itself is fairly flawlessly cast: not so much the rather listless Townsend, but certainly Duck's Casanova brother JT (Leon), the virtuous Choirboy (Wells), and lead singer Eddie (Wright), whose fate is blatantly a Dire Warning. For all the specificity of the soul background, Townsend gives us a retread illustration of the familiar pitfalls of fame; while some of the broader music biz gags seem left over from his earlier Hollywood Shuffle, as do the strictly 2D female characterisations. By the time it ends in a heartwarming nuclear family hoedown, we've learned nothing new.

Release details

Duration: 121 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Robert Townsend
Screenwriter: Robert Townsend, Keenen Ivory Wayans
Cast: Robert Townsend
Michael Wright
Leon
Harry J Lennix
Tice Wells
Diahann Carroll
Harold Nicholas
Chuck Patterson
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