September 18, 2000 12:00 PM

Showtime (Sun., Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET)

As a vocalist, songwriter, composer, instrumentalist and clotheshorse, Jimi Hendrix has never been matched. Both a hero and a victim of his times, he lived large and died sordidly but tragically young (of drug-related asphyxia, at 27, in 1970). All the right stuff for an emotion-packed bio flick–and yet, until now, fans have never seen his tale told on film. (Anybody willing to try again?) Starting with a script that seems lifted from news clippings, Hendrix plays like a VH-1 dramatization, but with lots of lingering shots of nude groupies. While the film takes time to re-create the moment when the guitar hero’s name is changed from Jimmy to Jimi (eureka!), it pays scant attention to his relationship with his mother, who left home when he was 8 and died seven years later. Without cooperation from Hendrix’s estate, producers could not include a note of his actual music; covers like “Hey Joe” and “Wild Thing” are performed by Hendrix mimics. Actor Wood Harris dons duds and chomps gum like Hendrix. But there the verisimilitude ends. Bottom Line: Star-mangled bummer

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