Picks and Pans Review: American Masters: James Brown
updated 11/03/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 11/03/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST
Get up offa that thing and let out a primal scream. This profile offers dynamic performance clips that amply illustrate why James Brown owns the title of hardest-working man in show business, and it does a commendable job of explaining how his rhythm-driven music connects gospel, soul, funk and hip-hop.
Unfortunately, the film is far less assured in its handling of the 70-year-old Brown's turbulent personal life. His marriages are treated as virtual footnotes. The Rev. Al Sharpton traces Brown's multimillion-dollar tax troubles to enemies in government fearful of the singer's power as a black leader. That's quite a charge to air with no rebuttal. On-camera interviews with Brown aren't particularly revealing. One senses he's here not to bare his soul but to confirm his preeminence.