Standing in the Shadows of Motown

"Weak"

Standing in the Shadows of Motown Review


Ever wonder who was playing in the band while Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, and other Motown legends were singing their guts out?

If the answer to this question is remotely interesting to you, run, don't walk, to see Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the documentary reintroducing the not-quite-famous Funk Brothers to the world after decades of obscurity.

While I like music and I like music history, Standing is unfortunately totally overwrought, deeply biased, and wholly designed to make you feel guilty about ignoring what the filmmakers clearly believe are The Greatest Musicians of All Time. Near the beginning of the film, filmmaker Paul Justman drops into a record store and randomly asks if the shoppers like Motown music, then asking, "Well did you ever stop to think about who was playing in the band with those guys!?" His tone is palpably vitriolic and, honestly, whiney.

But who can blame those poor saps in the record stores? I'd never heard of the Funk Brothers, just like I couldn't tell you who currently plays backup for Sting, Eminem, or Christina Aguilera. And I don't care.

Sure, it's a stretch to compare Christina to Diana Ross, but you catch my drift. No one remembers the bands because it's the vocals that stick in your mind. Sure, the Funk Brothers are very good, but are they exemplary to the point of deserving their own film? Not really. Justman and the surviving Funk Brothers obviously feel differently: At one point a bandmember goes so far as to say, "Deputy Dawg could have been singing," because it was their music that made the songs into hits. Uh huh.

Ironic then that a large chunk of Standing in the Shadows of Motown is consumed by what appears to be a small, manufactured reunion concert, wherein the remaining Funk Brothers play their old hits while contemporary artists sing the words. I don't know if it's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but having one-hit wonders like Me'Shell NdegéOcello and Joan Osborne butcher the vocals is about as cruel as one can get to Motown. (Osborne massacres "Heat Wave" by taking the memorable chorus down an octave.) I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the presence of Bootsy Collins and Chaka Khan (who inexplicably won a Grammy for her work here).

The good news is that the Funk Brothers are themselves full of history and lively stories, and when Justman gives them a chance to talk they are very engaging with tales of old Motown. It's too bad that the narration (over stock photos and, believe it or not, re-enactments) is unfortunately pedantic and useless, and the reunion concert footage is so God-awful I wanted to fast-forward through it. And that, sadly, is the bulk of the film.

In the final analysis, no matter what you think of the Funk Brothers, they undoubtedly deserve a far better movie than this.

Say, one of them's no brother!



Facts and Figures

Run time: 108 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 30th January 2003

Box Office USA: $1.2M

Distributed by: Artisan Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 83 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Richard 'Pistol' Allen as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, Benny 'Papa Zita' Benjamin as Himself (archive footage), Eddie 'Bongo' Brown as Himself (archive footage), as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself, as Himself (archive footage), as Himself, as Himself, as Herself, as Himself, as Himself, Meshell Ndegeocello as Herself, as Herself, Rudy Robinson as Himself

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.