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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

PBS (Wed., Oct. 29, 9:30 p.m. ET)

[STARS 2.5]

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.

DRAMA

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