Movies entertain, but they also teach. The best movies do both. Not every good movie has to do both, of course; if a movie’s subject matter is important enough, it can be worth your time to watch, even if it’s not the most entertaining thing you’ve ever seen. Conversely, you can have a great popcorn movie that isn’t important at all, but still stands up based on entertainment value alone.
Straight Outta Compton is an important film. There’s no question why it came out this year; just look at the news. Framed around NWA’s rise to stardom, Straight Outta Compton takes a no-holds-barred look back at the racial tension in late 80s/early 90s Los Angeles. While the film doesn’t spend that much time on Rodney King or the L.A. Riots, both are mentioned, both are reflected upon, and both help set the film’s background and tone.
The rest of the film follows Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E at the start of their music careers. It’s rare that I find a biopic that I like; I feel that most biopics (the ones I’ve seen, anyway) are so heavy-handed in injecting the negative elements of the film that it outweighs everything else. Those films are no longer fun. Straight Outta Compton, meanwhile, couldn’t stray farther from that path. Of course the film depicts the negative things in these guys’ lives at the time, but does so masterfully.
Straight Outta Compton is an important film to see. It’s also one you should see in theaters, if at all possible, because the real star of this film is the music, and hearing it blasting through a theater’s speakers is the best way to dive into early 90s rap. The film is long (nearing two-and-a-half hours) and even though it drags a little toward the end, it’s worth your time.