Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 30
  2. Negative: 0 out of 30
  1. Rollicking documentary that will have your toes tapping and your ears sizzling whether you're a die-hard Motown fan or not.
  2. Offers terrific interviews with the surviving Funk Brothers, who provide a tasty insider history of 4 a.m. recording sessions inside ''the snake pit'' (as the fabled Studio A was known) as well as a chilling description of their final kiss-off from Berry Gordy, the Motown mogul who treated them like indentured servants.
  3. 90
    So good because it is one of those rare documentaries that combine information with smashing entertainment.
  4. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    90
    What blasts off the screen like a heat wave, burning in the heart, is the sheer toe-tapping, booty-shaking joy of making music.
  5. A glorious feature-length documentary -- This film will leave an indentment, and a deep one, on anyone who loves great, joyous music and cares about the people who make it.
  6. 88
    Gordy barely is mentioned, even though he was the artistic leader who presumably profited most from the Funk Brothers' labors. Discussing Motown solely through the prism of the musicians is like assessing Picasso's works on the basis of the paint quality.
  7. It's a documentary about acknowledging genius, about just desserts, about artistic muses that refuse to give up. It's about great camaraderie and great music.
  8. Impassioned concert sequences with Ben Harper, Chaka Khan, Gerald Levert and especially Joan Osborne prove the Brothers' balanced approach still works on Motown chestnuts.
  9. 80
    The film's energy is primarily due to the rich storytelling skills of the musicians, who trot out anecdotes and memories filled with humor and wry philosophizing.
  10. If there's a flaw with the film, it's that Justman doesn't trust his narrators enough; too often he'll stage a re-enactment while someone's talking, as if he's afraid the mere tales themselves won't hold our interest. But they will, as long as there's a kid slapping a bass, a sampler swiping a groove or some middle-aged couple slow dancing to Marvin Gaye or the Miracles.
  11. It's a thrill to listen to the seasoned survivors offering witty, evocative anecdotes about themselves and others.
  12. 75
    Interlaces interviews with the surviving Funk Brothers with new performances of many of the hit songs, and some sequences in which events of the past are re-created. The flashback sequences are not especially effective, but are probably better than more talking heads. Or maybe not.
  13. Reviewed by: Leonard Pitts
    75
    Poignant, funny and ultimately exhilarating.
  14. Frustratingly, though, and not a little ironically, Justman chooses to focus on the new stars when they sing, rather than on the Funk Brothers playing in the background. Just as curiously, he paints a remarkably rosy picture of the old days, overlooking the racism and exploitation the Brothers surely experienced.
  15. 75
    The musicians' stories, while quite entertaining, add up to a somewhat confusing chronology. Still, they're good enough that you wish Justman hadn't resorted to those tacky TV-style re-creations that mar so many documentaries these days.
  16. Ain't no mountain high enough to keep the Funk Brothers from getting to you.
  17. Reviewed by: Joel Selvin
    75
    Catches magic on the screen -- a behind-the-curtain peek at some of the world's best-loved music, straight from the cats who made it happen.
  18. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    75
    One hell of a party, and it doesn't let anything get in the way of that.
  19. The Motown musicians today are in their 60s and 70s but they remain inspiringly colourful, funny in their stories and assured in their musicianship.
  20. 75
    It would've been nice to hear Robinson or Wonder reciprocate the affection of the band, and it would've been even more interesting to hear Gordy try to defend himself -- as if he could.
  21. Reviewed by: Bill White
    75
    Everyone who has ever enjoyed the music that came out of Detroit's Motown Records in the 1960s should see Standing in the Shadows of Motown.
  22. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    70
    The movie more than compensates for its biographical deficiencies with thrilling footage of a recent reunion concert which finds the Funk Brothers still in top form.
  23. 70
    Justman's affectionate doc provides the pleasure of hearing one classic pop hook after another performed by a still tight unit, as well as the spectacle of veteran sidemen sitting around talking music. (The movie would have benefited from more period footage and fewer restaged scenes.)
  24. Reviewed by: Walter Dawkins
    70
    The film works on both a human-interest level -- focusing on the travails of the band members now finally receiving their well-earned due -- and as a slice of Motown's early history.
  25. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    70
    The film is a testament to art, life and survival like the similar but superior "Buena Vista Social Club."
  26. Reviewed by: J. R. Jones
    70
    There's no denying the music's magic.
  27. When all is said and done, there ain't no mountain high enough that should keep you from getting to this movie. We've heard it through the grapevine for too long.
  28. 60
    It's a noble undertaking. But why isn't it a better movie? Told in scattered fashion, the movie only intermittently lives up to the stories and faces and music of the men who are its subject. Part of the problem is the narration.
  29. A blast into the past, but as with many nostalgic trips it's also shrouded in mist. The awkward, almost embarrassed way in which director Paul Justman, as well as writers Walter Dallas and Ntozake Shange, deal with race is unfortunate, as is the tendency toward overstatement.
  30. 50
    What should be a momentous occasion instead gets anonymously processed through the Doc-U-Matic, with exhilarating live material cut into a sloppy assemblage of interviews, archival footage, and awkward reenactments.

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