Like Mama Diva, like Baby Diva

Preview: `Double Platinum' has a double dose of urban myth.

May 15, 1999|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

"Double Platinum" is an urban fairy tale.

Once upon a time in a poor part of an old city in the South, a young singer (Diana Ross) abandoned her husband and baby. This was hard, but the singer had to "follow her dream."

She went to the big, magical city of New York and, sure enough, she became a star. In fact, she's now the queen of all divas, bigger even than Whitney Houston.

But she also found it "lonely at the top" and now, 18 years later, returns to find the daughter she left behind (Brandy) and take her back to the magical kingdom to make her a diva, too.

Will Mama Diva and Baby Diva live happily ever after in the land of Grammy Awards, platinum albums and sold-out concert tours? Watch out for serpents in the garden, Baby Diva. Yes, the crown does indeed appear to be slipping, doesn't it, Mama Diva.

Brandy is playing a modern-day version of the role she played to blockbuster ratings last year in "The Wonderful World of Disney's" "Cinderella." And Ross is playing, well, Ross, who is herself the stuff of legend in terms of her self-described climb from the housing projects of Detroit to girl singer in the Supremes, friend of Berry Gordy, and diva deluxe.

The movie has been criticized because the rags-to-riches part of the story has been told and retold. And it's true. In terms of narrative, "Double Platinum" is mainly a matter of recycling. The similarities between it and the Ross feature film, "Mahogany," are striking, right down to such question mark songs as "Do You Know Where You're Going To?" vs. "Have You Ever?"

But that's the point with myth and legend, isn't it? It is told again and again to each generation. Here it's Ross' generation speaking to Brandy's, and I think many viewers will like that a lot, especially when it is sweetened with the fantasy that the parent who abandoned you is not only nice but famous and really loves you a lot and wants to now give you the keys to the kingdom.

Neither performance is great. Brandy spends most of the film pouting even more than Leelee Sobieski as Joan of Arc on CBS.

As for Ross, I haven't seen her work this hard on screen in a while. But most of it involves singing. There are eight songs in the film -- four by Ross, three by Brandy and a grand finale duet, "Love Is All That Matters."

With eight songs and a promotional campaign that has included an "Oprah" show, why do I think ABC will do all right in the ratings tomorrow night?

`Double Platinum'

When: 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow

Where: WMAR (Channel 2)

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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