Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 138 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. This biography of James Brown doesn’t really go in-depth regarding the grittier sides of his life, but they’re mostly mentioned or briefly depicted: some implied sex scenes, sex-related talk, and sexual innuendo, including part of Brown’s childhood spent in a brothel and his mother working as a prostitute; one scene of drug use and the aftermath of a PCP high; a good amount of cursing and a few mentions of the n-word; and lots of violence, both physical and racist-related, such as white adults forcing black children to box and parents hitting their kids. None of this is over-the-top, necessarily, but some of it isn’t treated with as much care as it should have been, so the film glides along almost superficially even though it deals with weighty things.
‘Get On Up’ shines a light on James Brown’s life, relying on the vernacular of his fans and his most well-publicized stories to construct its biographical lens. But like most biographical films, it tries to cover too much, and ends up handling very little with adequate depth.
By Roxana Hadadi
A film biography is never easy. The movie can’t be too long, it can’t be too short, it can’t cover too little, it can’t cover too much; “Cesar Chavez,” “The Monuments Men,” and “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” fell prey to these issues most recently, and now “Get On Up” has, too. Director Tate Taylor makes some interesting artistic choices in putting together this biopic of musical legend James Brown, but he sacrifices too much of the middle of Brown’s life in his construction. There’s a superficiality here that glosses over Brown’s activism and politics (two of the subjects to which he was most committed), and “Get On Up” rapidly jumps from one iteration of the man to another. Hang on to the costume changes.