CrazySexyCool stars Keke Palmer as Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Drew Sidora as Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and Lil Mama as Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. All three, who are clones of their real-life counterparts, are gifted enough singers and dancers to make the musical scenes believably enjoyable. It’s hard to mess up Waterfalls.

The movie starts as the girls are struggling to make it in Atlanta’s dynamic hip-hop scene. T-Boz and Left Eye impress a young producer, Antonio “L.A.” Reid, who’s recently formed LaFace Records. Rozonda, a backup dancer, joins the group and changes her name to Chilli, and the pleasing moniker TLC is born. The dialogue is terrible (sorry, ijs) “We’re that tough, positive crew with a real down-to-earth message,” T-Boz says—but there are enough nostalgic touches to keep viewers distracted. Remember baggy overalls and the the Roger Rabbit dance? (Shruggs)

The trio experienced a tremendous amount of trauma, too much to pack into just a couple of hours, especially when each member’s grievances require equal airtime. T-Boz (Drew Sidora) suffered from sickle cell anemia. Left Eye (Lil Mama) struggled under the weight of her father’s disapproval. Chilli (Keke Palmer) struck up an ill-advised romance with Dallas Austin who produced several of TLC’s early hits, fathered a son with Chilli, and is portrayed here as a simp and a cad.

At minimum, the film has verisimilitude. The resemblances between the actresses and their subjects can be disorienting, and the wardrobes are faithful to the early 1990s, full of screaming colors in Mack Truck-size silhouettes. Director Charles Stone III (“Drumline”), does an admirable job remaking old music videos almost note for note and synthesizing faux vintage footage of varying types into a visually dynamic whole.

Photograph by Michel Linssen/Redferns via Getty Images

But as the film swerves from one speed bump to the next, it takes TLC’s success and acclaim largely for granted, a clear violation of the “Behind the Music” blueprint. Watching Ms. Palmer and Ms. Sidora — in character — respond to the news that Left Eye has died (in a car crash in Honduras, in 2002), their mouths agape, it’s easy to long for the simple pleasures of documentary.

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CrazySexyCool was made with the help and permission of Watkins and Thomas, who appear at the end of the film, singing their new single. As one would expect, the movie is very flattering. But while most of the rough edges have been sanded off—arson and alcoholism and discord are ultimately no match for sisterhood—a feistiness remains. Did TLC really burst into Clive Davis’ office with a posse of other women and start confiscating anything that said “TLC” on it, before kicking Puffy out of a meeting with Davis so they could talk about their contract? I don’t know, but I love that the surviving members of TLC embrace the story as part of their legend.

Out of 5 stars, I give it a 3. Congrats ladies— hip hop real life drama trumps reality any day.

What did you think of the biopic? Leave in comments below.