Cadillac Records movie review: In 1950s/'60s Chicago, Chess Records founder Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) helps break artists like Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Little Walter (Columbus Short), Chuck Berry (Mos Def) and Etta James (Beyonce Knowles). Many of their songs tested and sometimes broke racial boundaries, but the historic artists also had plenty of personal issues, and writer-director Darnell Martin's drama tells little pieces of everyone's story. Co-starring Gabrielle Union as Muddy's girlfriend, Geneva, and Cedric the Entertainer as songwriter Willie Dixon, who narrates the film seemingly so he can explain the basic concept of race relations to anyone who never knew it was an issue.
The buzz: There are certainly plenty of racially oriented stories worth telling on the big screen, but the question is if Cadillac Records can differentiate itself from films like the biographical Ray or (shudder) the fictional Soul Men and focus on the struggle of these artists to make it, how blues-rock brought blacks and whites together and why the music was quickly adopted/corrupted by artists like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Beach Boys and more.
The verdict: If Cadillac Records had a theme song, it would be Zeppelin's Communication Breakdown or House of Pain's Jump Around. Martin is so busy hopscotching across snippets of stories—Chess' ambition, Waters' womanizing, Walter's alcohol abuse, James' drug use—that she minimizes the big picture and the influence that grew from these legends. As a result, the film makes it look like scoring Number One records is a cinch and that racism ended the moment Chuck Berry stepped on stage. The deep, seductive power of the music occasionally takes hold, but there's no point in making a movie so simple about a musical concept so complicated. Source: Metromix
Box Office: On its opening weekend, the film opened at Number 9, grossing $3.4 million in 686 cinemas with an $5,023 average. When the film left cinemas in January 2009, it had yet to recoup its $12 million budget; it ended its run with a worldwide box office gross of $8,288,710.