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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Ray

Starring: Jamie Foxx, Regina King
Director: Taylor Hackford
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 155 Minutes
Release Date: October 2004
Genres: Music, Drama

*Also starring: Kerry Washington, Michael Arata, Curtis Armstrong, Patrick Bauchau, Warwick Davis, Denise Dowse, Kurt Fuller, Aunjanue Ellis, Rick Gomez, Justin Groetsch, Chris Thomas King, David Krumholtz

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

In the warts-and-all biopic, RAY, Jamie Foxx plays Ray Charles, "a blind 'Bama boy" who swept the music world with his unique blend of R&B and gospel music. Last seen as the good guy cab driver opposite the bad guy hit man Tom Cruise in COLLATERAL, Foxx gives another dead-on performance mimicking Ray's mannerisms perfectly. When the Oscar nominations come out, you can count on his name being high on the list. On the other hand, his performance is done with a robot's mechanical accuracy with little heart in evidence, so don't be surprised if you end up rooting for someone else to take home the statuette.

Blind from a very early age, Ray lived with his poor mother, who worked as a laundress. He rarely saw his father, who had three different families. This philandering attitude is one Ray adopted when he became famous. Kerry Washington plays his homebound wife, Della Bea. While she tended to his babies, he had a string of women on the road as well as at least one regular with whom he had another family.

Ray's effective polygamy, however, wasn't his biggest problem. He was a junkie with an addiction to heroin that lasted for decades, getting into him serious trouble and almost messing up his music career more than once.

The movie suffers too, but from a different affliction. Although it works hard to bring out more showroom fresh antique automobiles than you'd find in twenty museums in order to capture the 50s and 60s perfectly, it wastes way too much time. A movie that has no need to be long runs two-and-a-half butt-numbing hours. Watching it is rather like observing a flabby fighter, whom you wish had gotten into fighting trim before he stepped into the ring. First to go in a good director's cut of the movie would be all of the overacted flashbacks of Ray's childhood miseries. None of them feel genuine.

What works consistently and always in the film are the musical numbers, which are energetic and soulful, sung by the master himself. RAY is a flawed work but a reasonably satisfying one, especially if you wait for video when you can hit that fast-forward button when the picture makes its frequent sojourns into dragsville.

Finally, let's play a game. You are the MPAA. You are presented with a film with numerous scenes of a guy strapping down his arm and shooting up heroin in a very realistic manner, as well as other drug usage scenes. What rating would give it? How about PG-13 -- the same rating you gave 13 GOING ON 30, SPIDER-MAN 2 and HIDALGO? Right.

RAY runs needlessly long at 2:32. It is rated PG-13 for "depiction of drug addiction, sexuality and some thematic elements" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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