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"Dreamgirls"

Directed by Bill Condon.
Written by Bill Condon.  Based on the story/musical by Tom Eyen.
Starring Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  12/30/06

Folks--

Okay, it's predictable, and yeah, it's a musical in the true sense of the form...but, why did I love this movie so much?

Maybe "love" is a little strong, but "Dreamgirls" is flawless, a period piece that has the big songs and the big stars required to pull it all off.  The Dreamettes--lead singer Effie (Jennifer Hudson) and backup singers Deena (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose)--show up in Detroit for a stage contest that they eventually lose, but in doing so have their first run-in with aspiring record producer Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx), who arranges for The Dreamettes to sing back up for star soul crooner Jimmy "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy).  This gig makes the women minor stars as they ride the Thunder train for 10 weeks; while this is happening, Curtis and Effie's brother CC (Keith Robinson) begin crafting a sound for The Dreamettes, who eventually break off from Thunder to go solo, with one catch--to make them a more TV-friendly band, they switch lead responsibilities from Effie (who's a little, well, un-TV-friendly) to Deena, who is a visual knockout even if her voice isn't as rich as Effie's.  The switch, of course, is brilliant and launches The Dream (renamed) into the musical stratosphere on a par with The Beatles.  Of course, it's all gravy until Effie finally decides that she doesn't want to sing back-up any more, and Curtis gets greedy, and Deena buys into her newfound fame, and on and on and on.

The fall is just a requirement to this type of storytelling; I still don't know why anyone doesn't make a movie where it goes from rags to riches and then just ends, but that would probably be too easy.  Regardless, "Dreamgirls" still does good work during this part of the film; it's got a great mix of songs fast, slow and somewhere in the middle...and, the singing work by all of the leads, most notably Hudson, is stellar.  Because this is a real musical, many of the movie's dramatic sequences are told through song, and that doesn't drag at all, either...in fact, the number where Effie finally is given the boot from the group might be the movie's best.  The sets look lavish, the production has zip, the montages are all very well done (even if bits like the one where you have the requisite group-is-so-famous-they-make-the-cover-of-every-major-magazine set is so tired) and the acting from even guys like Eddie Murphy feels good.

I didn't walk out of the theater singing any of the tunes but many of the faster ones are catchy; I DID walk out of the theater still hopeful that Beyoncé might still remember my apartment number.  Man, you almost can't believe that a woman could become more stunning each time you see her, but Ms. Knowles really is that woman.  I don't know Jay-Z from your grandmother but one hopes he's appreciate of the gift he's been given!

I don't think that Oscar will really give this one the love come February, but I guess you never know.  "Chicago" did win a lot of cheddar a couple years back, though...

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

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 bad...man, 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/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09