Get On Up

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Get On Up Movie Poster Image
Entertaining, somewhat overlong biopic has edgy material.
  • PG-13
  • 2014
  • 138 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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.

What 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").

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byflossie2 November 22, 2020

Maybe accurate but still very disturbing depictions of racism

I'm generally on the flexible end about my kids seeing things in the categories this site tracks (sex, violence, swearing, consumerism, substances). But he... Continue reading
Adult Written byzeekattacklee January 22, 2015

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..
Teen, 14 years old Written byJimmy Brew July 21, 2015
Teen, 14 years old Written bydkasal000 January 20, 2015
Borderline PG-13 2 uses of f**k you almost rated r

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love true stories

Themes & Topics

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