Rock Docs: Chuck Berry -The Original King of Rock 'N' Roll (2020) - Reviewed

I've been a Chuck Berry fan almost as long I as I can remember, thanks to Back to the Future. Right from the start you know that a documentary about Chuck Berry is going to have the potential to either gloss over the bad stuff or just make it about the bad stuff, which there is a bit, Chuck was a lot of things but a squeaky clean guy was not on the list. The Original King of Rock 'N' Roll covers the gamut fairly well, but not without issue. 

Well shot for a documentary, the look is pretty standard until you get to the recreations and they are really something. Jarring, and half the time they just take away from the story they are helping to tell. They look good, if you like neon colored everything in a sea of black, but they tend to be too long and drag creating major hiccups in the pacing leaving you waiting for them to end so you can keep going. 

When you watch a documentary about a musician you kind of expect sound to be a big part of it here the creators fall flat, the sound levels are inconsistent during interviews. Most of the interviewees sound great but there are a couple where you have to strain to hear them speak and in once case sing. It's jarring and drastically effects at least one very emotional segment pulling you out of it and making you think about the sound recording. That being said, the sound on the rest and the majority of the music is perfect, nothing better than getting to listen to the King perform during all the eras of his career.

If I'm honest I went into this thinking that there was more tarnish than polish on the career and legacy of Chuck Berry, I fully expected this movie to show him as truly being a problematic icon that would forever be left in a weird limbo of never being truly accepted as the real king of rock 'n' roll. Strangely, they illustrate some points that weren't really made public to us when Chuck had his legal troubles in the '90s that shed a new light on things and might make me look at him differently. There is brutal honesty here and it's nice to see, there is a ton to worship. Don't get me wrong but it's counterbalanced pretty well. 

I said I was a fan of Chuck's and this made it even more clear what a genius he was. His music and his impact is the true spine of this documentary, the laundry list of musicians involved is impressive leaving almost no doubt on his real legacy. Listening to people that performed with, loved and knew the man gave me an insight into a life that I honestly knew very little about besides the music he made and what that did to music. You'll even get to hear about some of the ways he was kind of a dick to people he performed with, the bitterness still there, as is the pride that they played with Chuck Berry.

If you like rock docs, this is worth a watch it's pretty damn good but I don't think it's going to create any new fans of the genre although it might convert a few to the case of Chuck Berry. Some people will always say that Elvis was the King, but lets be clear, there is only one King. His name is Charles "Chuck" Edward Anderson Berry Sr., the poet laureate of early rock 'n' roll and the man who decided that a guitar could be used like a piano. The King is dead. Long live the king.

-Trevor West