Movie Review – Get On Up

The Help was one of my favorite movies of 2011. Add to that the fact that the film did so much to “help” the Mississippi film industry, and you better believe that I’m going to be checking out director Tate Taylor’s follow-up, Get On Up… also filmed in Mississippi. Add to all of that the fact that Chadwick Boseman really impressed me with his performance in 42, and, at this point, I’m just pumped to see Get On Up! After watching the trailer, I was quite impressed with the brief glimpse at Boseman’s portrayal of James Brown, one of the most eccentric men that I have ever witnessed existing. So, Get On Up had the chance to be the perfect storm of success for a guy from Mississippi who enjoys the lead actor and great music. It was certainly enough to “Get Me Up Offa My Thing” and head to the theater!

While the film was quite discombobulated, jumping through time, from beginning to end, I was almost always entertained and couldn’t wait to find out more. I just can’t imagine what a pain it had to be for the filmmakers to put this thing together. Never, in a million years, would I have been able to establish the random order of events that engulfed this storyline. That said, the film never really peaked, emotionally, as there was never a true moment of revelation or understanding, on the part of Boseman’s James Brown. For that reason, I truly hope that the film is fairly historically accurate. I’m willing to sacrifice emotion and excitement for the truth, but, if the film was uber-dramatized, I was not impressed. Either way, Get On Up was completely consistent in its portrayal of James Brown as a selfish prick who was never able to overcome his past.

The cast of Get On Up was pretty good, and, if you liked the characters in The Help, I think you would similarly enjoy these characters. However, it was easy to see that a few of the actors couldn’t quite figure out how to truly embrace the real-life people that they were portraying. Unfortunately, some of the characters felt fictitious, like the ones in The Help.

Octavia Spencer was spot-on in The Help, giving one of the most hilariously dramatic performances that I have ever witnessed. But, her Get On Up character just didn’t have a huge impact on me or the film, and that was quite disappointing. Honestly, her character had very little impact on the development of James’s character, and the film could have done without her or this entire period of his life. We probably wouldn’t have even missed it, considering how much the film jumped around.

Chadwick Boseman can act! And, he certainly deserves credit, after being left out of the Oscar-talk, in 2013. Going from cool and calm in 42 to eccentric and crazy in Get On Up could not have been easy, but Boseman made me forget that I was watching a movie. I thought I was watching James Brown himself. Similarly, the character of Bobby Byrd, played by Nelsan Ellis, was an absolute pleasure to watch. From an emotional standpoint, Byrd was much more developmental and fun to watch, in comparison to James Brown, who never really changed, matured, or made me care about him.

While Get On Up came nowhere close to the greatness of The Help, I was still quite satisfied, and, if you are interested in learning about the life of James Brown, I believe that you would be too. My praise and thanks go out to Tate Taylor for bringing both of these films to Mississippi! Maybe there is one perk to the fact that we are behind the current time… Movies set in the past fit right on in! Also, I know a lot of people have yet to watch The Help. So… go watch! I promise you will enjoy, particularly if you are one of my readers from Mississippi. I give Get On Up 2.89 out of 5 stars.

Christian Perspective:

In our world filled with sin and despair, the past often takes hold of us, as we attempt to move forward and create a new, hopeful life. If you need an example of such struggle, look no further than the life of James Brown, who had a rough past, absent of parental and moral guidance. Unfortunately, he let his struggles define his life. In fact, he used his lack of guidance to fuel his life, which he filled with selfish desires.

As Christians, we must accept the fact that God has given us each a chance to define our lives according to his will, rather than the will of our parents or teachers or friends or self. James Brown never had this understanding, and he lived his life with only one thing in mind… himself. If there is anything that we can take away from the struggles of James Brown, it is to trust God and love others. Life is yours to live, but it does not have to be lived just for you.

Get On Up is appropriate for mature teenagers and adults, who might be interested in learning more about the life of James Brown. If you do not traditionally enjoy biopics, Get On Up is not for you, but it is fairly appropriate, with some language, little sexual content, and some drug use.

Originally published on The Average Critic 

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While Get On Up came nowhere close to the greatness of The Help, I was still quite satisfied, and, if you are interested in learning about the life of James Brown, I believe that you would be too.

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