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Directed by Rob Marshall.
Written by Bill Condon.  Based on the musical by Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb.
Starring Renee Zellweger, Cathering Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  1/26/03 


Quite simply, I love “Chicago” in every way that I hated the shitty-ass piece of shit dogshit known as “Moulin Rouge.”

Based on the play of the same name, “Chicago” stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger as dueling divas stuck in jail.  In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I think the people that wrote “Chicago” stole their entire plotline from the extremely-underrated “Women in Prison” films that were always on HBO late-night...but, I digress.  Zeta-Jones and Zellweger play Velma and Roxie, two women that committed murder and are serving out their sentence in 193X Chicago when the female prison warden (Queen Latifah) makes Roxie aware that the only way out of the slammer is to hire a big-shot lawyer (Richard Gere) that has never lost a case.

What can I say about this production that is negative?  There wasn’t enough Lucy Liu?  Hmm...yep, I guess that is about it.  The casting of Zellweger and Zeta-Jones is perfect; I think when I first heard about this production, the names of the actresses that were bandied about all seemed to fit, but once you actually start watching the film, this twosome is about a good a pairing as you could get.  I know some of you who have seen “Chicago” didn’t like Richard Gere in it, but I thought he was perfect...and, his tap dance and singing sequences (especially the one during the press conference, where he was a quasi-puppeteer as he manipulated the press) were the best to me.  He is just enough of a ham to make those scenes work, especially his bravado courtroom sequence near the end of the film.  The songs for “Chicago” are great, the score by Danny Elfman (too many films to count, but made his film career with scores for Tim Burton films) is very good, there is a good mix of singing and non-singing sequences, and the dance numbers are snappy.  (Note:  that is the first time I have said “snappy” in a review.)  Even the little things—like the casting of Colm Feore as the assistant DA, Taye Diggs doing anything cause that guy is friggin’ cool, incredible pacing and vibrant energy—in “Chicago” work, and this is the first time maybe ever I can say that I loved watching a musical.  EVER.

“Chicago” is just plain fun.  It is solid adult entertainment that doesn’t overwhelm you with visuals; it really felt like it was on stage even in the movie theater.  But—and, this is for you, Kellam—you really should see “Chicago” in a movie theater.  Something gets lost in the translation to video/DVD, and that is the scale of the damned thing.  With the sound and the audience around you, “Chicago” is a great theater experience because it has that Broadway feel to it.  In an interesting credits note, the producers even try to reiterate to us that the stars did all of their own work; I was curious if this was required to give them credit for something we all can see with our plain eyes that they are doing.  So, there is a “Catherine Zeta-Jones’ Singing and Dancing Was Performed by Catherine Zeta-Jones” credit near the end of the film, almost to rub in our face the fact that the leads did all the work themselves.  Similar to a Jackie Chan film crediting “Jackie Chan’s diving, ass-kicking and falling-through-glass scenes performed by Jackie Chan”, it overstates the obvious but speaks to how rare it is these days that A-list Hollywood stars do anything really groundbreaking during a film.

Highly recommended.  I wasn’t looking forward to this but came away pleasantly surprised.

Rating:  Opening Weekend


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09