Chadwick Boseman has made a film career so far out of playing other people, for the most part. He was Ernie Davis in The Express, Jackie Robinson in 42 and in 2014 he added James Brown and Get on Up to his cinematic resume. Without supporting parts in Draft Day and Exodus: Gods and Kings in 2014 he’d have a near exclusive film career of biopics playing famous people. Assuming the role of the Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe in the next Captain America and then his own film, Boseman has a chance at becoming one of the few actors to become a star without having a career in film of playing original characters.
Boseman stars as James Brown in Get on Up, a biopic of the late singer, focusing on the bulk of his career in the 60s and 70s. Getting his gravely voice down, but leaving the vocals to dubbing, Boseman gives us a credible Brown in the midst of the powers of his fame. We get the good, the bad and the ugly about that time as it’s a fairly standard musical biopic.
That’s the films problem despite Boseman’s strong portrayal of the man. Musical biopics have notched their own archetypes and cliches, spoofed to perfection in Walk Hard, and Get on Up is the exact sort of film that the John C Reilly film nailed with its satire cannon. We don’t get a huge insight into Brown and his life that we haven’t seen before. He grew up poor, became famous and had problems with drugs. It’s better than most but we’ve seen this same song and dance before. There’s nothing new, just the usual sorts of problems that are cliche among musicians and musicians’ biopics.
Boseman gives a solid genre performance as Brown, having to lip synch Brown as a musician, but this isn’t anywhere near as brilliant from the heyday of the musical biopic genre for any number of reasons. The big thing is that the genre has become full of cliches to the point where it’s equivalent to a romantic comedy. It has to hit certain points because the lives of musicians tend to uniform out from early failures, success, divorces, arrests, drug use and the ilk. This hits everything of James Brown’s life but doesn’t give us an insight; this is a greatest hits.
Get on Up is a film out of place. This is a film that would’ve found a bigger audience, and acclaim, 10 years ago when Ray found acclaim and Walk the Line was on the horizon. As it stands now it was a film not strong enough to find itself in Oscar season and without the appeal to find a sizable audience outside the hardcore James Brown fandom.
The full performances of the songs in the film are included, as well as deleted/extended scenes. The rest is EPK pieces and some slight biopic information on Brown himself.
Universal presents Get on Up. Directed by Tate Taylor. Written by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, Dan Aykroyd, Viola Davis, Lennie James, Octavia Spencer. Run Time: Rated 133 minutes. Released on DVD: 1.6.2015
Tags: Chadwick Boseman, Dan Aykroyd, Get On Up, Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis