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Get On Up

Updated on August 30, 2014

James Brown performs "Get up offa that thing" live

Get On Up

Director: Tate Taylor

Writers: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Steven Baigelman

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Lennie James, Fred Melamed, Craig Robinson, Jill Scott, Octavia Spencer, Josh Hopkins, Brandon Smith, Tika Sumpter, Aunjanue Ellis, Tariq Trotter, Aloe Blacc

Synopsis: A chronicle of James Brown's rise from extreme poverty to become one of the most influential musicians in history.

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations

James Brown sings "I feel good" on the Ed Sullivan Show

James Brown and Michael Jackson on stage together

Stevennix2001's Rating:

8.5 / 10


- Chadwick Boseman's performance was great

- Great use of symbolism; particularly in one scene involving James Brown getting arrested.

- Editing style of having the flashbacks come in a non linear order was quite ingenuous.

- Acting was solid

- Film moves at a pretty good pace

- Make up to make Chadwick resemble an older James Brown looked fairly authentic.

- Soundtrack is great.


- If you look at Chadwick Boseman's lips while he sings, in this feature, then you'll notice it's kind of obvious he's lip singing. However, it's not bad enough to where most people will notice, or even care.

- The film never delves into certain aspects of James' life, so you never really get a sense that you know the man behind the legend.

The Funk Don't Quit

"Get On Up" may not be as great as many film critics are making it out to be, but it's definitely worth checking out. Based on the life and career of iconic music legend, James Brown. The film tells how James Brown came from being from a broken home, and how he would go on to become a legendary musician.

Like "Man of Steel", many of the flashback sequences to James' life aren't shown in a linear order. However, each flashback sequence that's brought out is often used whenever it suits the narrative of the story. Each of these sequences help shed a bit of light on who James Brown was growing up, and how he came to be. This not only comes off as interesting, but it makes "Get On Up" seem quite ingenuous with it's use of editing.

I especially loved the symbolism in this film, as there's one scene that shows James Brown getting arrested. But as he gets out of the car, Chadwick Boseman is replaced by a little kid in this scene; implying that the whole situation of getting arrested has made James feel like a frightened little child again. It's a powerful moment in the film, and I have to applaud Tate Taylor and his writing staff for orchestrating such an intense scene.

Like "42", Chadwick Boseman does a tremendous job here. Not only capturing all the little quirks and mannerism of James Brown, but he manages to make the character his own. Although, I hesitate to say he's Oscar worthy for this role, but I would definitely nominate him for a Golden Globe if I could. However, if I had to point out one flaw in his performance, it was a bit obvious he was lip singing during a lot of the James Brown songs. Granted, it's not too obvious to where I'm sure most people won't be able to tell, but if you look closely enough, then you can tell Chadwick is lip singing during the songs. It's not enough to ruin the feature, but it's worth pointing out. Anyway, as much effort as Chadwick puts into his character, he's hindered by the fact that the script never fleshes out James Brown enough to where you ever get a sense of who he really is.

Sure, it's shows many of his ups and downs throughout his life. We're even shown various scenes, where many of his own band members quit on him because they can't stand his ego. We're even shown that James can be extremely eccentric, egotistical, and a bit out of touch with reality at times, as the "breaking the fourth wall" moments establish that quite well.

But for all these positives, the story never delves into James' life as much as you'd expect it to. For example, it would show James Brown hitting his wife because some guy was ogling over her cleavage, and it's heavily implied that their marriage isn't perfect. Yet, we're never told any reason why that is. Why does he hit her to begin with? How did it lead up to this point? Sadly, "Get On Up" never takes the time to address this. Heck, the film barely skims over his love/hate relationship with his fellow band mate and friend, Bobby Byrd, to where you can feel any kind genuine connection between them. Sure, there's a few scenes with them here and there that flesh out their relationship, but it's never enough to where it has the type of impact that one would expect from a movie like this.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying every film has to spell things out for it's audience. However, when you make a biopic about any iconic figure, you have to make your audience be able to see the person behind the iconic figure itself, and not just the icon. In this biopic, we're given enough information to know how James Brown came to be who he is, but you never get a sense that you know who the man is behind the iconic figure that the media has built up over the years. Hence, therein lies the big problem with this feature.

Overall, "Get On Up" is a bit over hyped, and a tad overrated by most critics. However, if you're a huge James Brown fan, or you're just a movie fan in general, then I would still recommend it. Not the best movie of this year, but it's worth checking out.

James Brown in "The Blues Brothers"

James Brown in "Rocky IV"

© 2014 Steven Escareno


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