Alessandra Nivola does his best but there's little to love about Who Do You Love.
Music is all about timing. So are movies. That's why the indie "Who Do You Love" sinks in the shallow end.
The film is biopic about Leonard Chess who founded Chess Records and introduced the world to the sounds of such musical luminaries as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Willie Dixon, Etta James and Bo Diddley. "At Last," the song the Obamas used to ring in the president's inauguration, was brought to you by Chess Records.
Are you having déjà vu? That's because you've already seen this film. It came out two years ago and it was called "Cadillac Records," but last time it had a much bigger budget and cast filled with marquee names like Adrien Brody and Beyonce Knowles. "Who Do You Love" only pales in comparison, which isn't saying much considering the lukewarm response its' predecessor received from audiences and critics.
Following a similar paint-by-numbers musical biopic formula, Alessandro Nivola takes the lead as a driven but removed Chess, David Oyelowo proves a dynamic Muddy Waters, and Chi McBride is scene stealing as Dixon. But the film never rises above the expected and, with the exception of a few triumphant moments in the recording studio, director Jerry Zaks recreates a story that feels more like chamber music rather than rhythm and blues.
"Who Do You Love" is predictable and reductive (i.e.: when a red neck is cured of his racism through a harmonica duet), but the music is undeniable. The film's greatest achievement is in passing the Chess catalog along to new ears with songs like "Gone Fishing" and "Stuff You Gotta Watch." But that's a reason to visit iTunes, not your local movie theater.