Get On Up – Review

Given his larger than life persona, there’s an obvious expectation to any movie made about James Brown that it must live up to the man himself; that it be swaggering, extravagent, engaging and above all else, fun. For the most part, Get On Up delivers on those factors with absolute aplomb; it may have pacing and tonal issues on occasion, but star (and he is a genuine star in the making) Chadwick Boseman swiftly casts them aside with all the confidence and charm of the man himself.

The story of James Brown’s rise from poverty to become of the planet’s defining musicians, Get On Up focuses heavily on Brown’s relationship with best friend and band member Bobby Byrd – the effortlessly charming Nelsan Ellis – as the megastar frontman navigates the pitfalls and temptations of fame and fortune.

Boseman is electrifying as Brown – brilliantly embodying the performance that made the man the genuine article – but brings enough sincerity and presence to the role as to elevate it far beyond mere impersonation. Boseman has been threatening himself as the next Denzel for some time now, and if you still need convincing on his claim then Get On Up is the vehicle which will doubtless have you onboard.

With solid support from the likes of the reunited Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, and a nicely against-type Craig Robinson; there are a bevy of top-tier performances at work in a film which only falls apart on worn biopic-cliches in relation to the subject’s childhood. When the movie’s in full-swagger mode, it’s a genuine delight and a good time for all; but in 2014, the antiquated traumatic childhood angle feels overwrought and merely a required add-on for an otherwise terrific musical drama.

Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.

In it
Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd
Behind it
Tate Taylor

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