The life and times of musical legend James Brown, known as "The Godfather Of Soul," gets the big screen treatment in a brand new bio pic. It's called "Get On Up."
From his humble beginnings in the South to his becoming a superstar in the world of music, this is a look at the man who was dubbed the hardest working man in show business.
Chadewick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson last year in 42, plays James Brown. He's remarkable here, capturing the many sides of this iconic performer.
On stage, Boseman gets Brown's dance movies and unbriddled energy down pat, and these musical numbers are electrifying. Off stage, Boseman also hits all the right notes, in all phases of James Brown's life.
Unfortunately, the movie itself is riddled with problems. Director Tate Taylor, who also did "The Help," takes a non linear approach as he quickly jumps from one time period time to another for no apparent reason. The fourth wall is broken periodically, with Brown talking directly to the camera, and it feels out of place.
The narrative is unsatisfying as it leaves lots of unanswered questions. For example, there's a scene of Brown, in the 1980's, trying to outrun several police cars. His insane behavior is never explained, so we don't really know what led to his deterioration.
Other issues, like Brown's domestic violence charges are barely touched upon, while the screenplay fails to draw you in emotionally.
The film is over two hour and a quarter hours, but seems much longer as several scenes, especially near the end, feel redundant while others just drag on.
The supporting cast, which includes Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis as maternal figures, and Dan Aykroyd as his longtime manager do perfunctory work.
One standout is Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd, Brown's longtime musical sideman and loyal friend. The whole thing is really Boseman's show, though.
Neil Rosen's Big Apple Rating: 2.5 Apples