Film Review: James Brown Bio ‘Get On Up’ Stuck in a Funk

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Average: 4 (3 votes)

CHICAGO – “Get On Up” contains one dynamite performance trapped in a frustratingly mediocre movie. James Brown’s life and music offer a wealth of material to work with, that doesn’t necessarily adhere to the conventions of a formulaic musical biopic. Director Tate Taylor instead decides to put his life on shuffle. Taylor and screenwriters John-Henry Butterworth and Jez Butterworth seem to be intentionally trying to avoid making a straightforward Hollywood biopic. They’ve made a borderline incoherent one instead. Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

When I saw Chadwick Boseman in the Jackie Robinson story “42” last year I thought he looked like an actor being crushed by the weight of the legend of the man he was portraying. But he is more than up to the task of channeling the Godfather Of Soul. Boseman proves he can get down, entertainingly recreating Brown’s moves on stage right down to those leg-stretching splits. But the performance goes beyond mere impersonation. He captures not only Brown’s voice, but the funk in his spirit as well.

I only wish I could say the same for the script. The film starts with the bizarre 1988 incident that led to his arrest and incarceration. But from there it flashes backwards and forwards seemingly at random trying to cram in as many touchstones of his life and career as possible. Then at times James Brown will stop in the middle and address the camera, or offer a sly wink to the audience. I have no problem with this as long as there’s some groundwork set beforehand and it’s handled well so it seems organic. But these interludes seem to come out of nowhere and then disappear just as quickly.

“Get On Up” opens everywhere on August 1st. Featuring Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Dan Aykroyd, Nelsan Ellis, Craig Robinson and Octavia Spencer. Screenplay by John-Henry Butterworth and Jez Butterworth. Directed by Tate Taylor.  Rated “PG-13”

StarContinue reading for Spike Walters’ full review of “Get On Up”

Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman is James Brown in ‘Get On Up’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures

StarContinue reading for Spike Walters’ full review of “Get On Up”

Sue Bee's picture

You Hit The Nail On The Head

Immediately following the movie… I turned to my husband and said wow Chadwick was great but the script was so bizarre…

Toni Eaton's picture

Get On Up is a good film and

Get On Up is a good film and the people who are seen in the film are quite great. It is a nice film review.

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