by Andrew James
Dreamgirls is a masterfully crafted work of music and drama that absolutely leaps off the screen with its big sound and dazzling lights. The production value within each musical number is a spectacle to behold and it can't help but grab you by the throat while screaming, "Listen to this!" This is easily the best musical since 2002's Chicago (which I actually thought was pretty overrated) and in many's eyes, probably even better.
The story starts off fairly simple: three young ladies from Detroit, aspiring to become music sensations, get their big break at a small, amateur, talent contest. Jaimie Foxx, plays their talent manager and gets them lined up as backup singers for the James Brown-esque superstar played by Eddie Murphy. Things seem to be all going swimmingly until the intoxicating waft of money and fame begin to eat away at pretty much everyone involved. As more and more characters are introduced, the potential for more and more problems increases exponentially and soon the whole film's storyline becomes a downward spiral into irrational greed, double-crossing and emotional trauma. This is the cruel, cruel world of the music business shown bitterly behind a curtain of lights and glitter.
The performances are among some of the strongest of the year. Most notably Jennifer Hudson (of "American Idol" fame) who not only has some of the most amazing pipes I've ever heard from a singer, but also plays the sassy, crabby starlet-wannabe to the letter. I can't see her not being nominated for best supporting actress as she absolutely steals the show from all the other big name stars on screen. Foxx delivers well with his ambitious young talent agent turned rising super-producer a-hole. Eddie Murphy was a stand-out performance as well. While I couldn't help but see him as just doing a comedy routine of James Brown (SNL anyone?), he had a few heartfelt and melodramatic scenes that really kept him in the realm of reality.
Some of the reviews have written about Beyoncé as being the weakest link in the cast. While I would say that she certainly is one of the least experienced, I thought her performance was adequate and not deserving of any criticism. I admit however that I am cutting her some slack as she is absolutely one of the most beautiful women of all time and can never seem to tear my eyes away from her whenever she appears on screen. A person's exterior beauty is not something I usually take into account when judging a film or a performance, but in this case I simply can't help it. Together with her amazing singing voice which she really belts out on more than one occasion during the course of the film, she is a stunningly gorgeous woman in all facets.
The only real weakness I had with the film was the fact that there are just too many characters and too many subplots that go off on several different tangents and directions. We spend 10-20 minutes with two side characters while leaving us wondering what is going on with other main characters. And since there are so many, it's hard to focus on all of them simultaneously. Though this criticism holds water, it is a minor point as the director and screenwriter are able to tie it all up pretty well by the end.
The musical numbers are wonderfully catchy and toe tapping. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed each number because as I stated, this realy isn't normally my kind of music; especially the high-octane energetic tunes. There were one or two that didn't do it for me (especially the simple, slower songs that were there for drama), but this is bound to happen. Not everyone likes everything right? There is also one musical number with no real rhythm or rhyme. It's an appearingly improvisational fight between many characters all set to music. Though it shows off everyone's vocal talents (even Foxx) and progresses the storyline, it just didn't work for me as a "song" and it got me more annoyed than anything else.
Dreamgirls just exhudes confidence and glitz. The bright lights and musical energy are nearly unparalleled while the acting is very stand-out nearly across the board. While the storyline has a few bumps and I'm not quite ready to ruch out and buy the soundtrack, I can see now why this film is getting the accolades it has been. It's very deserving. Though probably won't enter my ten best of the year, it is certainly memorable and worth a second viewing on the big screen or at least somewhere with a booming sound system and a bright screen. It is a musical spectacular not to be missed.
IMDb.com - full cast and crew
FLIXSTER PROFILE for Dreamgirls