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

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

Advertisement
The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

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.