Chadwick Boseman’s fine work is wasted in Get On Up.
GET ON UP (Tate Taylor). 138 minutes. Opens Friday (August 1). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NN
James Brown biopic Get On Up is like a wiki-movie on the Godfather of Soul; it's got very little soul of its own.
That's too bad, since Chadwick Boseman, who previously brought Jackie Robinson to the screen in 42, does stellar work. He delivers a precise impersonation of Brown's gravelly voice and eccentric moves, and even lends emotional weight to the few scenes that deserve it.
However, Boseman's role feels more like a series of bullet points than an organic character. The movie hastily runs through Brown's hellish upbringing as an orphan in Georgia, with scenes that could have been spliced into Django Unchained, and his violent, drug-addled behaviour in his senior years, with career highlights in between.
By covering Brown's life in broad, familiar strokes, director Tate Taylor (of The Help) and writers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth fail to dramatize the moments and qualities that made Mr. Dynamite stand apart. And that generic treatment suggests Brown is just another Ray or Dreamgirl.
Early stretches shake things up by erratically jumping between timelines seemingly without rhyme or reason. It's chaotic but somehow fitting, given Brown's unpredictability.
But that disorder is the movie's only vestige of personality.