But who do we have to thank for these marvels? Writer-director Bill Condon certainly deserves a large chunk of the credit. It was him who managed to coax the jealously-guarded rights out of legendary producer David Geffen; him who adapted the stage production for screen; and him who commissioned the additional songs, two of which received Oscar nominations. It is his glittering, fabulous vision that we see up there on screen, a vision he brought to life with the help of creative geniuses like double-Oscar winning production designer John Myhre and ten-time Oscar nominated sound engineer Michael Minkler.
Of course, the cast deserve their share of the credit. Eddie Murphy is a revelation, prowling through the movie like a loveable, oversexed alley cat and belting out tunes like he was born with a mic in his hand. Jennifer Hudson is equally good, anchoring the movie emotionally and holding us rapt with her powerful, soulful voice. As for Beyoncé Knowles, it’s hard to see why she was nominated for a Golden Globe. Her performance is certainly understated and earnestly felt, but playing an R&B singer is not exactly a stretch.
The film is not without its faults. For one thing, it’s at least two songs too long. Jennifer Hudson’s voice is a marvel, but eventually it becomes too much of a good thing. With a more inventive plot this might not be a problem, but we can see everything coming a mile away. Compared to the buttoned-down brilliance of Bill Condon’s other work, films like Gods and Monsters or Kinsey, this is really quite a flimsy little film. The few stabs it makes at social commentary are half-hearted at best.
Luckily life isn’t just about serious art and grand philosophical ideals – there’s plenty of room for good old-fashioned fun. Dreamgirls may not be Condon’s richest or most complex work, but it’s certainly his most exuberant. And if you’re going to be dining on candyfloss, at least make it the kind that comes with the solid gold stick and the silver sprinkles.
- Alistair Fairweather
There's nothing revolutionary about Dreamgirls - it's just a good old-fashioned musical. But who can resist a movie with this much fabulousness?
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