“GET UP OFFA THAT THING and DRIVE YOUR FUNKY SOUL to the theaters” is something I’d be happy to say about Get On Up… if only it were a better film than it actually is. Director Tate Taylor, following up his terrific film The Help from three years ago, is back in action with this biopic of the Godfather of funk and soul himself, James Brown. Being one of the most recognized and cherished artists of all time, you’d think this combination with Taylor would be ideal.
However, Get On Up is generally a more mixed bag, filled with interesting tidbits not executed to their fullest potential.
The main thing that tends to sink this movie for me is the structure and timelines. The film jumps around frantically to different periods of Brown’s life, and it tends to do so with little rhyme or reason. It breaks up the pace of this film, clashes with its own tone, and makes its long running time much more noticeable. I respect what the filmmakers are trying to do, but gone is the straightforward but layered structure of The Help, a virtue of which that certainly could have helped Taylor out another time, as this film's set up leads to several sidelined characterizations.
However, that’s not to say this is a bad film. It is competently directed, the supporting cast is used to rock solid effect, and the period details in the sets, costumes, and hairstyles are showcased to great effect. But the anchor that truly centers this movie is Chadwick Boseman, who commands the screen with ferocious charisma and staggering energy that refuses to be repressed, and you know what… THAT’S James Brown! Boseman never lets the viewer catch on to the illusion, and embodies the inimitable soul of Brown without resorting solely to cheap surface imitations. For what problems the film may have, I would sit through all of them again just for Boseman, but I’d just wait for a DVD rental than to see it in theaters again.
*** / *****