Modern Humorist - Boredom in the Court
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Even fans of Puffy’s champagne bottle attack on record exec Steve Stout are bound to be disappointed by “People of New York vs. Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs,” which was released in full recently. An uneven, derivative affair, “People of New York” draws heavily from previous celebrity trials, but never really finds its own voice.

Bowing to his commercial instincts right off the bat, Puffy turns most of the vocal duties over to (surprise, surprise) Mr. Ubiquitous Himself, Johnny Cochran. Never mind that Cochran is so overplayed that, at this point, even his meaty licks on corrupt police and fame-hungry prosecutors reek of self-sampling. It seems what’s good for the running back is good for the rapper–if it brings in the numbers, then originality be damned.

The Cochran gambit may be commercially shrewd, but it only exacerbates the obviousness of Puffy’s hooks (e.g. “The Crowded Club Defense” from Jay-Z’s “I Didn’t Stab Lance ‘Un’ Rivera” and “I Contribute to the Community,” a Leona Helmsley oldie). These obvious rip-offs of…errrrrr, homages to trials past mire the whole of “People” in a sort of fuzzy post-Menendez, pre-O.J. civil trial referential mishmosh.

Plus, as the case wears on, all the sampling pretty much drowns out some of the trial’s potentially electric supporting voices. Duplicitous driver Wardell Fenderson, loyal labelmate “Shyne” Barrow, bodyguard “Wolf” Jones–these and other fledgling miscreants are relegated to the background, as Combs continues to let Cochran hog the mic like Shirley MacLaine at the Golden Globes.

And where on earth is Jennifer Lopez? J. Lo’s presence at Club New York the night of the shooting suggested that the diva played a heavy pre-production role in the trial itself. But instead of a tour de force, the Posterior from Puerto Rico gives a barely Barbieri-sized contribution. (A word to Jenny–no one wins awards for eight-minute appearances except Judi Dench, and you, my sweet, are no Judi Dench.)

In a way, of course, we should have expected no more from P. Diddy. As the final track, “I Am Going to Rededicate Myself to God and My Family,” makes clear for the umpteenth time, Mr. Combs is a defendant with a near Northian instinct for the cliché.

But this reviewer maintains that even P. Diddy could do better than “People,” an offering so homogenized, so focus-grouped, so bland, that it ultimately feels less like an individual statement than a calculated plea designed to sway the majority of its listeners.

And if that’s the future of trial law, then cancel my Court TV.

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More on Mr. Diddy:
Celebrity Home Page: Puff Daddy

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