I knew before I started watching this movie that it was about Frankie Lymon's three wives (played by Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon) and their fight over the rights to the song "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" and any other monies owed to Lymon's estate. Even knowing that, I was disappointed that the movie had so little about Frankie Lymon and so much about the wives. I came away from the movie not knowing much more about Frankie than before I watched Why Do Fools Fall In Love.
One problem is that the story is told in flashbacks from three different viewpoints. Each wife has her own idea about who Frankie was, giving the movie viewer no clear cut picture of him. The only things I gathered from this movie about Frankie was that he started out street corner singing; he was a real ladies man; he was generous with his money; he was a drug addict; and he did a lot of splits during his musical performances.
The movie starts out in black and white with the actor playing Frankie (Larenz Tate) and The Teenagers performing. This immediately established Tate as Frankie with the viewer and even though he didn't look much like Frankie, he had the dance moves down enough that it sets in the viewer's mind that he was really Frankie Lymon. After the opening, Why Do Fools Fall In Love goes to color for the rest of the movie except for the closing scene.
Why Do Fools Fall In Love was released theatrically in 1998, but plays more like a VH1 movie biography. It just didn't have the feel of anything but a cheaply thrown together movie and that's not blaming any of the actors, since everyone in the movie played their parts more than adequately with Larenz Tate as Frankie being the standout.
The best part of the movie was Little Richard who plays the part of Little Richard in the courtroom scenes (in flashback scenes he's played by Miguel A. Nunez). The real Little Richard does his Little Richard act of acting outrageous and hamming it up in the courtroom. Little Richard also gets to do one musical number near the end of the movie, plus add a coda to the movie about how musicians always get cheated.
Other musicians portrayed by actors in Why Do Fools Fall In Love are The Platters with Zola Taylor (one of Frankie's wives), The Shirelles, The Kinks (during the Hullabaloo segment) and for some unexplained reason Jimi Hendrix is shown leaving Morris Levy's (owner of Roulette Records) office.
One thing that didn't ring quite right was when Frankie goes to L.A. to live with Zola it's 1965 , but in the movie it appears they tried to make it look more like 1967, The Summer of Love. One other flaw that I found with Why Do Fools Fall In Love was that Frankie was just 13 at the time of his success and we never see a young teenager in Tate; he looks more like a young man throughout the whole movie. On the other hand, it would have been shocking (even if more realistic) to see someone that looked like a teenager going through the difficult things the wives explain about Frankie.
Even though the movie never purported to be about Frankie Lymon's life, I'm still left wishing that it has been more about Frankie and less about the wives and their viewpoints of what Frankie was like. Frankie's life would make one hell of a movie....think about it...working at the age of 10, hustling prostitutes for extra income for your family shortly after, having sex with women twice his age, marrying three different women, going AWOL from the army, being addicted to heroin from the age of 15, being cheated by your agent and recording company, getting off heroin but later dying from an overdose at the age of 25 by celebrating what you think might be a comeback. NOW, there's a movie!