Movie Review: Cadillac Records

Published by Clay Cane on Friday, December 5, 2008 at 12:00 am.

cadSummary: Loosely based on the story of Leonard Chess, who created Chess Records and helped launch the careers of Muddy Waters and Etta James.

Review: Another year, another rag to riches story. This is the most unoriginal plotline in Hollywood, yet it never gets tiresome to see. There is something in everyone who wishes their talents could pull them out of despair achieving stardom and millions of dollars—it’s like striking the lottery.

“Cadillac Records” is not a terrible movie but in the chain of rags to riches films (“Dreamgirls,” “Ray,” “Walk the Line,” etc.) it definitely falls at the bottom of the heap. Throughout each scene something is missing. Yes, the acting is strong, the writing is solid, but the story overall does not have enough soul. Maybe it’s the fact that several life stories are stuffed into one movie. “Cadillac Records” would have been better if it was just the story of Muddy Waters. Instead they wanted to give the audience a 90210 version of struggling Black artists in the recording industry during the 1950’s. There are so many characters and bending of history that you are never emotionally invested in one’s journey.

Whatever the case, no one can deny the acting is solid. Jeffery Wright as Muddy Waters is superb. Columbus Short is right on point as Little Walter. Eamonn Walker was a pleasant shocker, who made a name for himself in HBO’s Oz, as Howlin’ Wolf.

Of course when Beyonce Knowles is in a movie the big question is—can she act? Beyonce was just right. There was nothing spectacular but nothing terrible about her performance. She did just enough and I am not sure she could’ve done too much more. One can only hope she will challenge herself and no longer play musical roles.

One sad thought about “Cadillac Records”  — this might ruin the chances for Muddy Waters and especially Etta James to have their own biopic. James’ life story has Oscar written all over it. Unfortunately, “Cadillac Records” may have shut down more authentic and raw storytelling from this era.

Cadillac Records is in theatres today.

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