Peter Travers may not be dancing in his seat for Get on Up, the new James Brown biopic he highlights this week on At the Movies, but he’s certainly offering a standing ovation for the film’s star, Chadwick Boseman: “He’s just 100-percent great, a powerhouse,” Travers lauds.
With Mick Jagger on board as producer, Get on Up was able to secure the rights to Brown’s music, and as with Jamie Foxx in Ray, the singing Boseman did on set was eventually replaced by the Godfather of Soul’s actual vocal tracks. But as Travers learned during a recent interview with Boseman, the actor is no slouch, as you’ll see in his short, but soulful rendition of Donny Hathaway’s “I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know.”
While Boseman’s performance shines, the movie itself coddles Brown’s legacy a bit too much (which was perhaps necessary to please his family in order to secure the music rights, Travers suggests). Get on Up touches on Brown’s impoverished upbringing, early run-ins with the law and his troubling past with drugs and spousal abuse, but as Travers says, “We see hints of it, but we don’t really see James Brown down, down, down.”
But we do see plenty of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business on stage — pompadours, splits and all — and director Tate Taylor (The Help) captures the brilliance and immediacy of those famous performances. “I feel that I’m watching him, because Chad Boseman up on that stage comes alive,” Travers raves. “He’s got the funk, he’s got the spirit, he’s alive and he makes James Brown alive for those scenes that work.”