Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 30
  2. Negative: 2 out of 30
  1. The ensemble is stupendous--howlingly great--and the music goes deep.
  2. 90
    This movie is crowded and sprawling, and if it rambles sometimes, that's just fine. Like those big, boxy Caddies (and like Howlin’ Wolf, if he did say so himself), it's built for comfort, not for speed. It hums, it purrs and it roars.
  3. It's an enjoyable ramble, with a feel for what made the early days of rock as wild as any that followed.
  4. Reviewed by: Gene Stout
    The movie's biopic aspect is multiplied by the sheer number of players who made Chess the first family of Chicago blues, R&B and rock 'n' roll...That all of them were later inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame attests to their enormous influence on popular music and culture.
  5. The film suffers at times from biopic-itis – the narrative unfolds with the requisite heartbreak carefully apportioned – but it's always eye-catching.
  6. In watching this film, it's best not to worry much about the film's fidelity to history but rather simply lean back and enjoy one great jam session on film.
  7. 80
    Such an exhilarating, spirited piece of work that its embellishments and omissions cease to matter.
  8. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    One of the strengths of Cadillac Records, written and directed by Darnell Martin, is that it's a movie about music by someone who genuinely seems to enjoy listening to music.
  9. 75
    Cadillac Records is an account of the Chess story that depends more on music than history, which is perhaps as it should be. The film is a fascinating record of the evolution of a black musical style, and the tangled motives of the white men who had an instinct for it.
  10. Reviewed by: Tasha Robinson
    Mos Def makes a terrific Berry, all flash and confidence, and Wright offers a memorably soulful take on Waters, whether he's strutting, singing, suffering or all three. Walker's Howlin' Wolf is a deep-throated, pride-filled bear of a man who dominates the screen.
  11. 75
    The film's most memorable performance is by Eamonn Walker, who is scarily good as the singer known as Howlin' Wolf.
  12. A satisfying combination of great songs and strong dramatic performances.
  13. Anyone who likes pop music or wonders how bands like the Rolling Stones got rolling will enjoy the ride.
  14. 75
    Has buoyancy to spare. It's filled with bumps and scratches. But in the manner of a nicked old LP, its gnarly surface and warps-and-all sound evokes real life.
  15. Cadillac Records may be a mess dramatically, but it's a wonderful mess, and not just because of the great music. The people who made it must have harbored the notion, almost subversive in a season of so many depressing films, that going out to the movies should be fun.
  16. The electrifying music helps camouflage the screenplay's hyperbole.
  17. Cadillac Records bobs and weaves, strides and duckwalks, samples and smiles on the sounds that made urban Chicago such a blues melting pot.
  18. Brody plays Chess as a slightly crooked but well-meaning musical cheerleader without fully emerging as a character.
  19. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    The film features too little about Berry (an engaging Mos Def), who crosses over to great fame.
  20. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    It's a hell of a story, and Cadillac Records wants to tell it so badly that it threatens to warp the narrative out of recognition.
  21. 63
    There are plenty of small pleasures to be found throughout Darnell Martin's feature, but a compelling storyline featuring three-dimensional characters is not among them.
  22. There are certain films - let's call them Road Map Movies - that drive you directly from point A to point B to point C, with barely a stop for gas. Cadillac Records is such a film: You see all the major landmarks, but how enlightening can a road trip be if you never even get off the highway?
  23. Reviewed by: William Thomas
    Beyoncé proves her Dreamgirls turn was no fluke in this so-so Blues melodrama.
  24. 60
    Director Darnell Martin (I Like it Like That) races through the script's bullet points with a brisk superficiality that leaves crucial plot points underdeveloped and unresolved, and refuses to engage the dark side of Leonard Chess’ paternalism.
  25. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Most of the details are right-on in Cadillac Records, though the director's efforts to sell it sometimes steers the film into mawkish or hokey territory.
  26. 50
    It's all a blur, except for the music. That's workin'.
  27. It's a rousing, fast-paced tale, told with a modicum of verve and packed with colorfully flawed, occasionally heroic and even tragic characters. It also feels disappointingly bloated and too fast-paced by half.
  28. 42
    Martin attempts to present the whole oversized Chess story, but instead winds up reducing the lives and art that give it shape.
  29. Reviewed by: Matt Collar
    We never get a real sense of what made these recordings so different or revolutionary. Part of the problem is that re-recorded versions of songs by the actors were used in the film, with vastly mixed results that never match the ferocity and excitement of the original tracks.
  30. Reviewed by: Robert Wilonsky
    With everything so wrong, how can there be anything right about Cadillac Records?

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