This is a great two hour movie, too bad the complete running time is two and one-half hours, but we'll get to that later.
Based on Otis Williams' (the de-facto leader of the group) book "The Temptations" we get the story of one of the greatest rhythm and blues/soul groups of all time and probably the greatest group that came out of Motown. The Temptations focuses primarily on the classic line up of Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams.
The Temptations begins with their early days in Detroit with their two root groups "The Distants" and "The Primes" joining forces into one group. They name this new group "The Elgins", but Berry Gordy rejects that name and they change it to The Temptations. The movie then follows the ups and downs of the group until only the last surviving member (Otis Williams) is alive.
Although it's a lot of years to fit into two and half hours, The Temptations does a good job without appearing that anything is rushed or only touched on too briefly. One of the best things about the movie is that the lip sync is great. My feeling is that everyone was so familiar with these songs that it was easy to do the lip sync. The actors also copy all of the original dance moves quite well. Believe me, seeing these songs and dances recreated will have you smiling a lot while watching The Temptations.
The real standout among the actors is Leon and his portrayal of David Ruffin. Leon has also played Jackie Wilson in "The Allen Freed Story" and Little Richard in the biopic "Little Richard". The picture that we get of David Ruffin is that he had a giant ego and a giant drug problem. From what I have read both of these are true, but David Ruffin also had a giant talent and that fact comes through with bells in The Temptations. Plus, even with his problems, David Ruffins appears to be the coolest cat in the group. The scene where all of the other Temptations arrive in Cadillacs and then David Ruffin pulls up in a white Rolls Royce driven by his chauffeur will be stuck in my mind for a long time as the epitome of cool.
The Temptations also gives you a look into the well oiled machinery that was Motown Records and how a record was put together, with it not being released until Berry Gordy felt it was going to be a hit. Even the movie has a scene about The Temptations leaving Motown and signing with Atlantic and how they found out it was definitely a mistake.
The first couple hours of The Temptations was great. It was equal to many theatrical releases that I have seen and far superior to your usual TV biopic. If the movie had ended at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards Show with all of the original members reuniting and briefly forgiving each other, this would had been one hell of a movie. But like a lot of biopics, it feels the need give you a complete story. The last part of The Temptations drags the viewer along (both figuratively and emotionally) as we see how each of The Temptations dies, except of course, Otis Williams.
Even though I'm sure that Otis Williams slanted things to favor himself (and I'm guessing he had a real dislike for David Ruffin), I still felt that I got a fairly good look at the group known as The Temptations. If you enjoy a good biopic or have any interest in Motown and/or Soul/R&B music, I would highly recommend this movie to you.
Below are two videos one of the "Movie Temptations" and one of "The Real Temptations".