When you are making a biography of one of the most celebrated and iconic musicians of the modern era, expectations are high and it would be pretty easy to screw it up, thankfully this is not the case. While “Get On Up” is far from a perfect film, it in many ways plays like a greatest hits record that isn’t wholly satisfying but is still plenty of fun.
“Get On Up” is the rise, fall and rise again of a man who came from extreme poverty to rise to the top of the musical world and become the hardest working man show business today who changed the face and the business of how the music world operates. It is the Godfather of Soul himself, the innovator of that super heavy funk, the wild life of James Brown.
Something that plays very much like a greatest hits record, “Get On Up” is a fun, but ultimately chaotic bio pic that gives us most of the key moments but still feels a little hollow but manages to rise above thanks to an electric lead performance.
With a few too many cooks in the kitchen from a screenplay standpoint, “Get On Up” doesn’t play in a standard chronological fashion and it jumps a little too much, never letting any of the genuine drama sit with the audience as it has to hurry and get to a musical number. However to director Tate Taylor’s credit, every single musical performances is unquestionably electric. While it was almost entirely lip-synced, the syncing of it was note perfect and Taylor shot everyone of the musical numbers with an electricity that is reminiscent of the James Brown live show. While the narrative may not have been 100% on point as it was just a bit messy jumping back and forth not giving us any clear picture of his life but snippets, the music hit that beat and gives audiences exactly what they came for as it is a fun film that is capped off by a hellacious leading man performance.
Chadwick Boseman who audiences may now from the Jackie Robinson biopic “42” embodies the challenging role of James Brown with shocking ease. The script does allow him to have some fun with it all as he actually breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience, this allows us to not necessarily take it quite as seriously and it lets the natural humor of the man shine through. On top of all that Boseman got the moves down point perfect as was gliding across the screen with absolute ease. Sadly the rest of the ensemble doesn’t quite get a chance to shine as Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis & Craig Robinson just don’t get that much to do and only Dan Aykroyd as Brown’s long time manager and friend Ben Bart and Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd got any character development and got to stand out next to Boseman who was filling up the screen as the larger than life Godfather of Soul.
While it isn’t the tidiest movie in the world, the highs in “Get On Up” more than outweigh the lows as the music is great and it is fun to watch, but anyone looking for something in-depth on the life of the man will be left wanting.
3 out of 5 stars.
“Get On Up” is opening in theatres everywhere tomorrow, please check with local listings for show times.