Friday, August 1, 2014

Get On Up Movie Review

Chadwick Boseman stars in Get On Up

It's Chadwick Boseman's World

I never thought anyone could replicate the raw energy and persona of James Brown; yet Chadwick Boseman manages to do that, and then some in Tate Taylor's biopic Get On Up. Taylor's film is noticeably (almost painfully) choppy, and literally about 40 minutes too long; but Boseman's performance is so good, you practically don't notice it until the very end. Boseman captures all the moves, none of the singing (thank goodness) and most of JB's unrivaled style, as he unveils the Godfather of Soul to a brand new generation that never had the pleasure of seeing him in action.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: In his follow-up to the four-time Academy Award-nominated blockbuster The Help, Tate Taylor directs 42's Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in Get On Up. Based on the incredible life story of the Godfather of Soul, the film will give a fearless look inside the music, moves and moods of Brown, taking audiences on the journey from his impoverished childhood to his evolution into one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Boseman is joined in the drama by Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, Lennie James, Tika Sumpter, Jill Scott and Dan Aykroyd.

What’s Best: Boseman takes a while to turn all the way into JB, but good things come to those who wait. He's most effective early on, before getting bogged down with political activism, tax evasion and teaching kids to say, 'I'm black and I'm proud.' In fact, it's too bad James Brown has to get old at all... Take us to Paris 1971, and call it a day. Up to that point, Boseman had me convinced he was the Godfather of Soul.

Humor plays a central role as well, especially in the form of Little Richard (a scene-stealing Brandon Mychal Smith) and little moments (such as a waitress swapping steak and eggs for a doughnut, once she realizes James Brown is... somebody.)

What’s Not: Besides being way, way, way too long, there's plenty else to pick on. Taylor's directing style is enough to drive this movie critic crazy: He jumps from decade to decade with irksome frequency, and little to no segue. Some of J.B.'s flames fail to bring any heat (Nelsan EllisCraig Robinson) and the 19-person Makeup Department should be embarrassed to show their faces after doing a hatchet job on the elder Godfather of Soul. Dan Aykroyd's Ben Bart is so transparent, you practically don't even notice him until he shows up dead on a golf course.

Best Line: Jez and John-Henry Butterworth did a banner job with Get On Up's screenplay, sprinkling all kinds of goodies throughout the film. I'd have been satisfied with JB's, 'I'm in a honkey hoedown!' but his 'Aw shit, I got to go' in the middle of a gun-wielding interrogation is pure gold. Ditto for Grandpa Byrd's 'Pass them beans before you get bullshit on them.' Between Boseman and the Butterworth brothers... the B's clearly call the shots on this set.

Overall: I was/still am a huge fan of James Brown, and have to admit... I was a bit skeptical of Boseman's attempt at bringing him back to life on the big screen (especially after a playing a comparatively boring Jackie Robinson in 42.) Thankfully, Boseman shows he's able to switch gears with the best of 'em, saving Get On Up from his director's slippery hands. How else do you explain a 138-minute runtime that left me squirming in my seat for more than half an hour? More music, less time with JB the tyrant boss (that's gonna cost you 20!) and Get On Up could have been a hit. As it is, it's 100 minutes of solid (sometimes great) entertainment.