Get On Up

Entertaining, somewhat overlong biopic has edgy material.
  • Review Date: August 1, 2014
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 138 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

No matter where you come from, you can achieve your dreams through hard work and sheer determination -- though, of course, having a boatload of talent helps. Loyal friends are gold, but you have to be able to be honest with each other for the relationship to flourish.

Positive role models

While he's certainly flawed (and, yes, misogynistic), James Brown is undeniably talented and visionary. His friend Bobby Byrd is loyal, sometimes to a fault, and Ben Bart, AKA Pop, truly appreciated Brown's talent.


Brown is shown hitting his wife and throwing things around the room during their arguments (with few consequences). He also brawls with others, shoots a ceiling with a rifle, and gets into a major car chase with the cops. African-American kids are thrown into a ring to fight blindfolded for a white audience. A brief scene shows a man's corpse hanging from a tree. A child dies.


Couples are shown passionately kissing. One scene involves a guy walking into a room to discover his sister having sex with his friend, though there's no nudity, and both appear clothed, at least from what viewers can see.


Strong language includes "s--t," "f--k," "a--hole," and the "N" word.


A few brand names are seen, including Chevrolet. Flush with cash, a successful Brown buys everything from drinks to an airplane. 

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Lots of drinking in social settings. Some period-accurate smoking. In one scene, a character is shown adding crack cocaine to tobacco.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Get On Up is an entertaining biopic about the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Wide ranging, it covers both Brown's highs (groundbreaking performances and breakthroughs) and lows (the death of his child, domestic violence, smoking crack cocaine) and includes lots of mature material, making it too edgy for tweens and young teens. Expect scenes of relationship strife (physical fights and loud arguments), fighting, a car chase, a gun being fired, period-accurate smoking, social drinking, drug use (a brief scene shows a man adding a rock-like substance to his rolled cigarettes), passionate kissing, implied sex, and some swearing ("s--t," "f--k").

What's the story?

There are stars, and then there are STARS. James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) was a supreme entertainer, gifted with enormous talent and vision. But hardscrabble doesn't even begin to describe the life from which he sprung, with a neglectful mother (Viola Davis) who abandoned him and an abusive father who eventually left him in the hands of a brothel owner (Octavia Spencer). Brown's main escape as a child from a life hobbled by poverty and societal restraints was church, where he was awed by a preacher who sang with such conviction that it made young James feel unshackled, if only for a little while. After landing in jail for attempting to steal a three-piece suit, Brown meets Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis), the lead singer of a gospel group who takes Brown into his stable home and provides the opportunity for the singer to finally take the stage and become the Godfather of Soul.

Is it any good?


Director Tate Taylor gets so many things right in GET ON UP, starting with the cast. The astounding ensemble is led by Boseman, who not so much mimics but channels the Godfather of Soul in carriage, bearing and -- especially -- onstage charisma, imbuing his performance with a lot of soul and depth, particularly in a backstage scene shared with Davis that will break your heart with its complexity and deep sadness. Boseman shares top credit, acting-wise, with Ellis, who paints Byrd with exacting authenticity and empathy.

And then there's the storytelling. Taylor dispenses with dogged chronology and opts for a boomerang approach that careens from Brown's adulthood to childhood and back again, each scene informing the previous one, adding layers so that the legendary R&B singer comes alive, flaws and all. (That said, the film is overlong, and Brown's relationship with his wives gets short shrift.) Best of all is how Taylor handles Brown's performances, allowing the music to dominate and persuade, to remind us why there is no other James Brown and likely never will be.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Get On Up portrays James Brown. Would you say the character is a multi-dimensional, complicated person? How does the movie handle his demons?

  • What are the challenges that a biopic faces in depicting its subject? Do filmmakers ever tweak the facts? Why?

  • Parents, talk to your kids about the domestic violence that takes place in the film. How does violence beget violence? How did it shape the singer?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 1, 2014
DVD release date:January 6, 2015
Cast:Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer
Director:Tate Taylor
Studio:Universal Pictures
Topics:Arts and dance, History
Run time:138 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:sexual content, drug use, some strong language, and violent situations

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Written byAnonymous October 9, 2014
age 14+

Swashbuckling dramatic James brown bio has intense moments

My rating:PG-13 for violence,sexual content,drug use and languag
Teen, 16 years old Written byAvengingSon98 October 15, 2014
age 13+

Best Movie Of The Summer

What other families should know
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written byJimmy Brew July 21, 2015
Adult Written byzeekattacklee January 22, 2015
age 14+

Get on up Review..

A good Biography Film about James brown.. although the Film does get a little mature with language. This film would be fine for mature teenager..
What other families should know
Too much swearing


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