BLOGS

Beyonce And My Ding-A-Ling

by Odie Henderson March 31, 2008 12:28 pm

A new cast member has been added to the roster of Cadillac Records. The new feature, written and helmed by Darnell Martin, details the rise of the Chess record label. I remember that label fondly, because it was stuck to my favorite 45 as a kid, "My Ding-a-Ling" by Chuck Berry. Prior to this, Martin, a Spike Lee protege, directed I Like It Like That, the first movie directed by an African-American female to be financed by a major studio. That same studio, Sony/Columbia, is releasing her latest. Playing Leonard Chess, the owner of Chess Records, is Oscar winner Adrien Brody. Muddy Waters is being assayed by Tony- and Emmy-winner Jeffrey Wright, and the too-sexy-to-be-real Gabrielle Union plays Wright's girlfriend. According to The Hollywood Reporter, rapper/actor Mos Def is now rounding out the ensemble as Mr. Berry in the Chicago set film. Unlike his turn as Ford Prefect in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which I enjoyed, dare I say), this is perfect casting. As evidenced by his fantastic turn in Something the Lord Made, Mos Def has turned into a fine actor. He looks a bit like Berry, and he can sing too, so this might be his opportunity to out-Ray Jamie Foxx. All he has to do is grab a guitar and ask Maybelline why she can't be true.

Speaking of things that can't be true, Beyonce is playing Etta James in this movie. I admit that Ms. Knowles is bootylicious, has singing talent to spare, and has diva presence galore. What she doesn't have is acting talent. She doesn't sound like James, but they can easily fix that by having her lip-synch if she can't match the vocals herself. They can't rotoscope her over a better actress, though, so will she be the weak link in the ensemble?

Knowles is also executive producing, which means if the film is superb, she might be able to get back at the Academy for snubbing her writing credit for the Dreamgirls song, Listen. If the film's a hit, Mos Def can play another Chicago-based singer who was into women and peeing: R. Kelly.

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