Nearly eight years have passed since the world lost James Brown, the Godfather of Soul (on Christmas Day, no less) in 2006. So why has it taken Hollywood so long to construct a musical biopic in his honor? Finding the right man to fill Brown’s hefty shoes might have caused the delay, but by the look of the above trailer for Get On Up, Chadwick Boseman’s the guy we’ve all been waiting for.
This trailer, posted to YouTube, hits all the usual beats of the musical biopic. We get a child version of the soon-to-be superstar, starting in rural surroundings (usually in a broken home) but funneling the pain and suffering of a conflicted childhood into his or her art. In this case, we very quickly get to scenes of James Brown, the "hardest working man in show business," entertaining crowds, making briefcases full of money, signing record deals (with Dan Aykroyd, no less), and – at the movie’s dramatic turn – confronting the sins of the past the artist thought they left behind.
Here’s a shot of Chadwick Boseman in action as James Brown. Get On Up, indeed.
A few things concern me. Get On Up is directed by Tate Taylor, a Southerner (from the great state of Mississippi) who brought a taste of the region to his award-winning The Help. But I’m still wondering, after watching this clip, if he’s the right director for this job. There’s no denying that Taylor hired a worthy cast. Chadwick Boseman has been impressing audiences with turns as Jackie Robinson in 42, and as an arrogant NFL draft pick in Ivan Reitman’s Draft Day. And he’s surrounded by talent in Get On Up, including Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis (holdovers from The Help), Keith Robinson, Aykroyd, Jill Scott, Tika Sumpter and Nick Eversman… as Mick Jagger! (The Rolling Stones front man receives a producer’s credit on this movie.)
Hopefully it all works. James Brown lived a very colorful life, had a wonderfully successful musical career, suffered the usual ups and downs that come with celebrity, and left us at the ripe old age of 73. He’s a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s an icon, with an amazing story to tell. Hopefully Tate Taylor and the team for Get On Up are ready to tell it.
The movie opens in theaters on August 1. What’d you think of the trailer?