2007-05-29 11:17

It is the early 1960’s and a group called The Dreamettes are struggling to get noticed. The trio, led by the powerful voice of Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), are undoubtedly talented, but Detroit’s newly born Motown scene is crowded with other hopefuls. At a local talent show Effie and her soul sisters Deena (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) sing their hearts out but still fail to win. They do attract the attention of Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), a wannabe record producer with a big ego and even bigger dreams. Curtis sweet talks the reluctant Effie and her songwriter brother C.C. (Keith Robinson) into accepting their first paid gig – singing backup for James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). Before long the renamed “Dreams” have their own act, but they soon learn that fame has a price.


Screen musicals are dead. At least that’s been the conventional wisdom for the last 40 years or so. Even when that perennial iconoclast Baz Luhrmann sprang Moulin Rouge! on the world in 2001, few people thought that the musical had truly been reborn. But since then we’ve seen Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent and dozens of other musical flavoured films like Walk the Line burst onto the big screen. And if you need any more proof that filmmakers and audiences are embracing the form again, just watch Dreamgirls.

Adapted from the mega-successful Broadway production of the same name, Dreamgirls is as traditional as a musical gets. Sure, the songs may be soulful Motown hits instead of Oklahoma style show tunes, but the principle is the same – forget the intricate plot and dazzle the punters with song-‘n-dance numbers.

And dazzle us they do, with lavish costumes, great sets, nifty dance moves and some truly spectacular vocal performances. In fact, these numbers are so good that they completely overshadow everything else in the film. The rags-to-riches-to-ruin story is pretty standard after all, and the acting is mostly average (Jamie Foxx is uncharacteristically flat). But when you’re watching the trio and the electric Eddie Murphy strut their stuff on stage, it’s hard to care.

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?

SYLVIA LAWRENCE 2007/02/01 10:11 AM
Good movie Learn alot from it
Gaby Schnetzer 2007/02/01 1:24 PM
Dreamgirls Simply loved it! Fantastic music, stunning voices (especially Jennifer Hudson!), good and gripping story for a musical. Eddie Murphy is brilliant as James "Thunder" Early. Very impressive performance by Keith Robinson. Beyonce very believable in that role. Will get all my friends to watch it.
bernice 2007/02/02 10:18 AM
dreangirls- i just loved everything about this movie, the music, the storyline, if you are big fan of "old school" music, than you would notice the similarities between deena and diana ross, even copying her old cd covers, just brilliant!! i loved every minute of it,jennifer hudson...ill be the first in line for her cd. this is a must see!!!!
Olivia 2007/02/03 3:30 AM
Jennifer Hudson is going places! I watched Dreamgirls last night and thought it was brilliant! The singing is amazing - I kept hoping Jennifer Hudson would sing another song. Her performance of I'm telling you was so well done. Break-ups are painful, desperate events when you really loved the person, but that is rarely shown in movies. I have never been as moved by a break-up scene as I was by Jennifer Hudson's desperation when she sang to Jamie Foxx that she's not going to let him go. I believe Jennifer Hudson is going to be the next Whitney Houston. Although I love musicals at theatre, I'm not such a great fan of musicals on screen, because the singing isn't normally good enough (In the movie version of Rent, for example, I thought only Seasons of Love was performed really well.) I can't stop thinking about the movie. I bought the soundtrack online earlier and I'm going to buy the dvd as soon as it's released (and of course I'll be watching the movie again at the cinema next week). Jennifer Hudson's tale
Julian Fernandez 2007/02/05 12:28 AM
awesome! Brilliant acting, brilliant singing. Eddie Murphy takes firm grip of his role and Jamie Foxx gives a good performance of the guy-we-love-to-hate, drowned in his thirst for success. I would really like to know why Jennifer Hudson is nominated in the 'best supporting actress' and not the 'best leading actress' category, after all she is what makes the movie. Beyonce actually has the supporting role, gives a good performance, but is definitely over-shadowed by Jennifer. Beyonce is good, but Jennifer is better. Seldomly does one see so much emotion in true heartfelt songs being delivered in a film-musical. I can only recommend it. 'I'm not leaving without you@ and @Listen@ are two definite showstoppers.
Lona 2007/02/06 11:24 AM
Awesome I have to agree with Julian that Jennifer Hudson should have been nominated in the leading actress category. She is a great discovery and I only hope we'll see more of her in movies and music from here on forward. There song LISTEN & NOT LEAVING WITHOUT U left me with goose bumps... Will definately be getting a copy of the soundtrack! If u haven't seen it yet, it's worth every cent.
Ben 2007/02/06 1:29 PM
GAY! If you're not female and not gay please don't waste your time to watch this over the top musical. I went along with my gf and I was embarrased to be there. Jennifer was brilliant no doubt about it but Beyonce is an ever worse "actress" than singer.
Nnditsheni 2007/02/07 8:03 AM
Dream Girls I think beyonce lookes more beutyful than ever and her body looks great,she has lost some kilos in that movie.Definetly must see.
Shirls 2007/02/07 10:39 AM
oh please! Jennifer Hudson screamed her way through that movie! She might have a powerful voice, but it was wasted in the movie. The songs were weak, the acting was not deserving of any emmy or oscar nominations. I side with Ben on this one... don't waste your time
nolitha 2007/02/20 11:34 AM
dreamgirls indeed i havent watched the movie yet but from what i've heard about Jennifer Hudson makes waana really watch the movie, i heard some snippets of the soundtrack from the internet of the movie and girl can she sing not to say B cant sing i'm a huge fan of hers but Jennifer is something else, one must definitely watch it
Yaisa 2007/02/28 2:23 AM
dreamgirls dreamgirls is definately a must see hey, jen rocks hey, the girl can sing like an oh i dont even know what..
mpakiseng 2007/03/13 9:31 AM
Dreamgirls fabulous,talk about going after your dream
Nthabiseng 2007/05/07 11:24 AM
Dreamgirls The movie rocked - Its a classic with a touch of the modern world. The music is just exhilirating. With so many bad movies on circuit, Dreamsgirls is a definate must see!
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