Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman, center, and Craig Robinson in "Get On Up." (Universal Pictures / November 26, 2013)

James Brown earned his nickname as the Hardest Working Man in Show Business with passionate performances and relentless touring, so it's only fitting that Chadwick Boseman gives his all to portray the legendary soul singer in the new biopic "Get On Up."

Reviews for the Tate Taylor-directed movie have been positive to mixed, with some critics taking issue with the aggressively non-linear script (by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth). But what everyone seems to agree on is that Boseman is electrifying as Brown.

The Times' Kenneth Turan says Boseman delivers "a star performance … that's little short of heroic" in "a disjointed film that suffers from having a more ambitious plan than it's got the ability to execute."

He adds, "It's a mark of how galvanizing a star Boseman is that his moment-to-moment performance, the energy and intelligence he brings to his work as a man who ran roughshod over adversity ('I take it and I flip it,' he says. 'I go forward'), convinces you despite all the obstacles the film's structure places in his way."

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern writes that Boseman "fills Brown's shoes with a dynamism that transcends imitation." Morgenstern also says that while Boseman was "hugely appealing" in the Jackie Robinson biopic "42" last year, "nothing in that portrayal could have predicted the brilliance of this one. It's a transformation that evokes Brown's gyrating body and furiously tortured soul."

Ty Burr of the Boston Globe says Boseman "has the moves down," and although he lip-synchs to Brown's vocals (wisely, Burr says), the actor "inhabits the singer totally.… The two men look nothing alike, yet Boseman convinces in the spring of the walk, the confident slur of the talk, and, above all, the sweat — the discipline, effort, and joy — he puts into every waking moment."

The Associated Press' Jocelyn Noveck writes, "none of ['Get On Up'] would work, of course, without Boseman, an actor on a remarkable run of late, playing Jackie Robinson in '42' and now this. If he was impressive as the dignified Robinson, he's electrifying as Brown."

She continues, "Just as Brown, in life, upstaged pretty much everyone — including his bandmates, the Famous Flames — Boseman does that here."

Scott Foundas of Variety adds, "Whatever else one may fault about 'Get On Up,' one thing that's faultless is its star, Chadwick Boseman, who plays Brown from age 16 to 60 with a dexterity and invention worthy of his subject. … Boseman is an empathic presence, and nothing he does smacks of mimicry. He feels Brown from the inside out, the way Brown felt his own distinctive rhythms, and even when the movie itself seems to be on autopilot, Boseman never leaves the captain's chair."

Given all the praise Boseman is receiving, one can't help but wonder if he'll be an awards-season contender. At least one critic is predicting as much.

The New York Post's Lou Lumenick says "Get On Up" "belongs, heart and soul, to Boseman … This time, I think, he's going to get an Oscar nomination."

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