Friday, January 05, 2007
What seemed like a dream project on paper doesn't quite turn out that way on screen. Don't get me wrong, "Dreamgirls" is very entertaining but it fails to raise the bar for movie musicals the way "Chicago" did a few years ago. The screenplay and direction by Bill Condon basically portrays the Broadway show on film. Having an opportunity to use the medium to enhance the story, Mr. Condon plays it safe and doesn't bring anything new to the screen. If you missed the play, you will probably appreciate the film all the more for it's accurate reproduction. For me, this was the same problem with the filmed version of "The Producers". "Chicago" got it right by adding a new dimension to the story and actually made it better.
The cast of "Dreamgirls" put forth a mighty effort and standouts include Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy. Beyonce is a wonderful singer but her acting is pretty stiff. Jamie Foxx shines early in the film but as his character ages, his initial energy diminishes. Danny Glover does a fine job as the road weary manager. The costumes, dancing, and singing are terrific but bursting into song/speak rather than dialog stops the story dead rather than moving it forward. As written, the story and pace follow the stage performance perfectly. You realize the end of act one and almost expect the intermission sign to light up.
If nothing else, see "Dreamgirls" to discover Jennifer Hudson. A loser on "American Idol", she proves they made a mistake by lighting up the screen with her acting and singing. If the name hadn't been already taken, "Dreamgirls" could have been called "A Star Is Born".