Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
April 19, 2012
*** (out of four)
The anecdote-filled documentary “Marley” runs nearly two and a half hours. Perhaps that’s so if any viewers inhale their support for the late reggae legend before the movie and pass out during, the thing will still be running when they wake up.
Fortunately, director Kevin Macdonald (“The Eagle,” “The Last King of Scotland”) spreads good stories throughout the informative, overlong film, which lingers extensively on Marley’s youth and offers virtually nothing about his legacy and long-term impact on fans, the music industry or the world he aimed to unite. Macdonald leaves no stone unturned, from an interview with Marley’s first teacher to his commitment to Rastafarianism (dreads and weed can and do have religious meaning) to his belief that problems will be problems, no matter who’s elected.
Actually, Macdonald does ignore some stones. The film notes that Marley and the Wailers long wanted an African-American fanbase in the U.S. without examining why his shows were so overwhelmingly white. Many people comment on Marley’s process of writing lyrics but no one puts any emphasis on the music, which may only affirm viewers who claim all reggae songs sound like near-identical vamps. And with a production credit for Bob’s son Ziggy, it’s no surprise that “Marley” feels glossy in presenting its subject as a generous ball of charisma without really tapping into what kind of husband and father he was.
Regardless, “Marley” offers an informed perspective on the man behind the empowering music. He and his band performed in a cemetery at 2 a.m. to ensure that they wouldn’t be afraid when stepping on stage, and Marley comes off as effortlessly honest even when his answer to everything seems to be a blandly life-affirming statement. Of course, he had reason to be grateful and humble; “Drink some water and go to bed,” Marley was often told while growing up without food. A memory like that would make you thankful for any sense of security, no matter who’s listening.
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