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WGUC Reviews

Dreamgirls

Dreamgirls
Dreamworks Pictures
Rated PG-13
Review by: Larry Thomas


Back in 1976, a little film called Sparkle was released. It was about a three girl singers determined to make it big in the music business. It had more than a passing resemblance to Diana Ross and the Supremes. While it wasn't a huge success, it had enough charm to win it some very favorable reviews.

Five years later, the Broadway stage lit up with Dreamgirls, a similarly-themed play that ran for some fourteen-hundred performances and managed to accumulate six Tony awards, including best actor, actress and supporting actor. While it did not acknowledge the film Sparkle, it was even more of an unauthorized tale of the rise of Diana Ross and the Supremes.

So, after twenty-five years, can the film version of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls manage to collect a treasure trove of Oscars, just as the original play did with the Tonys? Conventional wisdom says yes.

The plot, while mirroring real life, is as simple as the earliest musical movies... girl group with a dream gets the big chance to work their way to the top. Unfortunately, it's a hard road, with hard lessons. They find that dreams and reality don't necessarily co-exist... especially in show biz.

Jamie Foxx is fine in his role as the "bad guy" of the piece, modeled on Motown mogul Berry Gordy Jr. Beyonce Knowles plays Deena Jones, the Diana Ross character, and is a fine actress as well as singer.

Eddie Murphy... you remember him... is back with a vengeance channeling several popular singers of the day, and is electrifying. If you thought you'd never live to hear the words "Eddie Murphy" and Oscar nomination in the same sentence, prepare yourself... it may just happen.

Anika Noni Rose, a Tony-winning actress herself, is funny and charming as the Mary Wilson character. Unfortunately, with all the star power in this film, she seems to be getting short shrift in the publicity department. That's too bad, as this would have been a scene-stealing performance in any other film.

Everyone seems to be just glowing over Jennifer Hudson, a former contestant on "American Idol," as she chews up the screen with both a dynamic performance and an outstanding singing voice as Effie White. The character of Effie is based on Florence Ballard, the original lead singer of the Supremes. When replaced as the lead by the svelte and more charismatic Ross, Ballard's career and personal life went in the tank. Just like Effie. And just like another Jennifer... Holiday on Broadway... this is a star-making performance for Jennifer Hudson. You may remember the often-used line from 1933's 42nd Street... "You're going out there a youngster, but you have got to come back a STAR." This is the personification of that chestnut. It's real, and Hudson has found her big break, not only in movies, but music as well.

Let's not forget writer-director Bill Condon, who wrote the film version of Chicago, and directed the terrific Gods and Monsters. He infuses Dreamgirls with a sense of style that blends both great moviemaking with the feel of watching a Broadway performance.

Audience reaction has also been on the spectacular side. There are reports of standing ovations and extended applause, as if in a live theatre. It's almost as if filmgoers want to call the entire cast back for an encore. That's appropriate, since at 2 hours, 10 minutes, Dreamgirls is a film that leaves you wanting more. And that's the mark of a really good movie.


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