'Get on Up' to see James Brown get down
Soul singer’s biopic released this weekend
Felicia Haney | 8/1/2014, 6 a.m.
Aug. 1, 2014 This is a man’s… scratch that. This is the man, James Brown’s, world and it wouldn’t be nothin’ without him. And, in the Tate Taylor (“The Help”) directed biopic “Get on Up,” Mr. Brown is sure to let you know it.
James Brown was born dead, born poor and born to two parents who would leave him to fend for himself. But, with the help of his aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer) who picked up a portion of the pieces when his last parent paraded off to the Army, he – and the rest of the world – would soon learn that he was also born a star.
Taking on the role of James Brown is “42” star Chadwick Boseman who has some pretty big dancing shoes to fill. Not only does Boseman fill them, but his cup runneth over. The moves, the voice, the swagger, they’re all there. Boseman delivers on his part and brings his fellow actors along with him for the ride. Boseman, Spencer, Viola Davis, Nelsan Ellis, Lennie James, Tika Sumpter, Jill Scott and Dan Aykroyd, make the acting end awesome on all fronts, the storyline however… It’s just “ehhh…” on some of the parts.
Director Taylor and screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth walk the audience through nearly 60 years of Brown’s 73-year-long life covering his background in Augusta, Ga., as well as his times as Mr. Dynamite, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, Soul Brother No. 1, the Godfather of Soul and the Original Disco Man. Problem is, to portray someone who’s lived a lengthy life with an almost equally lengthy career, even at 2 hours and 18 minutes, you can’t pack it all in – but boy did they try!
Through a series of flashbacks, flash forwards – and Eddie Murphy-like looks at the camera where Boseman speaks directly to the audience on screen – the film takes a few quantum leaps through decades that, if you don’t stay focused, could ‘cause you to lose the beat of an otherwise finely tuned drum. If you didn’t know much about Brown you’ll get clued in on where he picked up those famous dance moves, that accompanying signature scream and how they led him to be one of the fiercest bandleaders there was calling rehearsals on off days. You’ll be introduced to a few influential folks in his life like his best friend Bobby Byrd (Ellis), Universal Attractions Talent Agency big wig Ben Bart (Aykroyd) and an encounter with Little Richard (Brandon Mychal Smith) that would teach him a life lesson on how to not only be the show, but also the business. You’ll meet two of his four wives (one of which is Deidre Jenkins, played by Scott). You’ll flirt with his criminal career and take a small peek at his abusive mean streak. You’ll pop in and out of his political savvyness that flew him to Vietnam, landed him in the White House, kept in touch with his community through the Black Panthers and ended a Boston riot before it even got started at his nearly canceled concert following Dr. King’s death.