Dreamgirls

"Very Good"

Dreamgirls Review


If only they had let Bill Condon direct Chicago instead of just writing the screenplay. As Condon shows with his razzle-dazzle adaptation of the 1981 Tony-winning musical Dreamgirls, he would have been quite an improvement on Chicago director Rob Marshall -- who, before he gave us a mostly-Chinese cast for Memoirs of a Geisha, tried unconvincingly to prove that Renée Zellweger could sing and Richard Gere could dance. It didn't quite kill the movie (the material is almost indestructible), but made one wonder what it could have been with some actual professionals in the lead. Condon makes no such mistake with Dreamgirls, finding a cast with just the right mix of theatrical chops and movie star charisma. In short: If anybody's thinking of doing a film of Jelly's Last Jam, they should see what Eddie Murphy's schedule looks like.The story is just about perfect for a musical: simple enough to hang a number of tunes on, and not so complex that it requires an inordinate amount of dialogue. A quick pastiche of a number of popular R&B groups from the 1960s and '70s, the musical follows one talented Supremes-like trio of singers, the Dreams, as they get their big break doing backup for James Brown-esque screecher James "Thunder" Early and secure the services of ambitious proto-music mogul Curtis Taylor. The fortunes of some will rise, others will fall, trusts will be betrayed, and beliefs about love and friendship will be tested -- basically nothing that can't be best expressed by a soaring ballad.Dreamgirls fairly jumps out of the gate with startling impatience, doing everything possible to get the audience's attention short of having the performers actually reach out from the screen and drag people up on stage. The entire beginning -- set backstage at a Detroit talent show -- is a barrage of spotlights, flashy and coordinated outfits, and neck-breaking music-video editing; the remainder of the film lets up a little, but not much. The energetic songs come fast and quick, Condon and his brilliant cast snapping them out like there's no shortage. Fortunately, there isn't.The genius of the original musical was setting itself in such a fecund period for R&B and soul, thus providing a deep well from which to draw inspiration. It was that period starting when songs that were popular on African-American radio ("race records," as they were called) were either ignored or stolen and watered down for the white mainstream, moving into the golden era of the Motown groups and stretching up until the early stirrings of disco. Dreamgirls hits, sometimes obliquely, on a number of big historical moments from this period, such as the scene where Taylor (Jamie Foxx) comes up with the idea of payola to bribe DJs to get the girls' songs on the air. The film is hardly weighted down by history, however, as there's always another number to get to, or another fight to resolve; most of the latter being caused by Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), the loudest and most talented of the trio.Condon took a risk by casting a relative unknown (well, save for American Idol) in this key role, but it more than pays off. Cast aside by Taylor fairly early on, once the chillingly business-like producer decides she's too much trouble, Effie spends a good deal of time in exile, working on a comeback. As everyone knows, Hudson more than holds up her end in the singing department, rattling the rafters each and every time it's called for. But fortunately she's a good enough actress to keep her character likeable, admirably tough instead of annoyingly stubborn. Foxx plays things closer to the vest than he normally does, which gives his character a chilling villainy at times, but comes dangerously close to non-acting at others -- with a similarly muted turn in Miami Vice, this could mark a disturbing trend for a normally explosive performer.The biggest and most pleasant surprise, however, is Eddie Murphy as Early. When he could have fallen back on his well-tooled James Brown impression, Murphy instead mixes up a number of different performers into his act and adds his own swagger and polish, while not forgetting the painful vulnerability of a once ground-breaking artist who's terrified about being left behind (there's more than a little autobiography in this performance). It's as though a curtain has been raised from Murphy: He knew and we knew all along that he could pull off something like this, but it just took the right film to make everybody realize once again, what a star he is.With all the killer tunes and star turns (even the normally sleep-inducing Beyoncé Knowles, as the Diana Ross-like Deena Jones, knocks it out of the park) it's surprising in the end that Dreamgirls isn't a complete winner. Maybe too much ground is covered too fast, too much attention paid to flash and artifice, when more groundwork should have been laid. For some reason, even with all the powerful emotions unleashed during the film, there's a strange hollowness at the end, once all the bright lights have dimmed and echoes faded. Maybe it's too much to ask that a musical deliver knockout songs and a solidly-constructed story at the same time, as the two often work at cross purposes. More likely, we should just be happy that Hollywood has figured out how to make musicals again, even if they only come around every four years or so.His girls like to party all the time.


Dreamgirls

Facts and Figures

Run time: 130 mins

In Theaters: Monday 25th December 2006

Box Office USA: $103.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $103.4M

Budget: $70M

Distributed by: Dreamworks

Production compaines: DreamWorks SKG, Warner Bros. Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Fresh: 156 Rotten: 44

IMDB: 6.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , , Leann Stonebreaker

Starring: as Curtis Taylor Jr., as Deena Jones, as James "Thunder" Early, as Marty Madison, as Lorrell Robinson, as C.C. White, as Effie White, as Michelle Morris, Hinton Battle as Wayne, Mariah I. Wilson as Magic, Yvette Cason as May, Jocko Sims as Elvis Kelly

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.