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'Get on Up': Will the James Brown movie be worthy of its subject?

New trailer for James Brown biopic "Get on Up" stars Chadwick Boseman as the soul singer

A mix of personal tribulation and artistic reinvention characterizes the new trailer for “Get on Up,” the James Brown biopic that Universal brings to theaters Aug. 1.

Which makes sense, as both were present in abundance in the life of the iconoclastic performer, with a complicated mother relationship taking prime position here. Whether the Tate Taylor-directed film gets at more subtle complexities in Brown’s life and music -- the kind investigated in R.J. Smith’s compelling biography, about his polarizing relationship with white audiences, his penchant for violence and his unexpected political evolution -- remains to be seen.

Brown, who died in 2006, is at least in good hands here. Talented comer Chadwick Boseman stars as the soul-singing coiffed one, again incarnating a 20th century legend. (If the Jackie Robinson connection wasn’t clear for casual viewers, the trailer, as with a previous spot, calls out Boseman’s “42’ and uses the Robinson-esque tag line “He broke rules; he broke barriers.”)

Of course, in areas as diverse as personality and ideology, Brown was far from a Robinson-type figure, another aspect one hopes the movie tackles head-on.

The music biopic is an over-fished genre, and creating something new and exciting isn’t easy, as those behind the Jimi Hendrix and other recent biopics can tell you. “If you’ve never been down, how you ever gonna get back up?” a voice-over asks toward the end of the "Get on Up" trailer. Indeed. But here’s  hoping the movie does more than follow that familiar inspirational arc.

 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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