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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 24.11%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad29.46%
Total Crap: 8.93%

7 reviews, 70 user ratings

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by Collin Souter

"About as fresh and inspired as a fat guy named Tiny"
3 stars

I almost always walk into a musical with a positive attitude. I want them to be good. As a lifelong movie and music fanatic, I’m never happier than when the two mediums merge together to form a perfect piece. I always try to champion a director who tries their hand at a musical, because it takes more courage to pull one off. Many of the most maligned movies of all time happen to be musicals. As we grow more cynical toward them, they become harder and harder to sell to an audience, and having such lame efforts as Phantom of the Opera and Rent doesn’t help matters.

Bill Condon’s Dreamgirls aspires to be bigger and better than 2002’s Chicago, which many people in Hollywood would claim to be the apex of recent musicals. The intent seems rather obvious. Fast editing, likable yet devious characters, greed, an historical context (the ‘60s and ‘70s) and a cast with somewhat obvious Oscar potential, Dreamgirls has everything a hopeful studio wants in a winter release. Unfortunately, what it doesn’t have is something to make it a truly memorable classic that will guarantee it a long shelf life beyond Oscar season.

What it has is a formula: Three aspiring soul singers get their start singing for an egotistical frontman, only to earn themselves fame and fortune beyond their years as back-ups. A falling-out occurs, the times-a-change, their music changes and drugs enter the scene, etc. A musical doesn’t necessarily have to get by on originality. It can be as simple as “Let’s put on a show,” like the old days with Mickey Rooney, and still work, but Dreamgirls doesn’t have the lift or the energy necessary to drag it beyond the confines of its stale storyline.

As the three girls, Deena, Effie and Lorrell (Boyonce Knowels, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Nori Rose, respectively) do very good work and are a powerful singing trio. Hudson, in particular, stands out as a force not to be messed with. As the “ugly duckling” of the bunch, however, she of course, gets removed from her role as lead singer, which causes tension. Their super slick manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), moves Deena into the lead as a way of better selling the band to the audience. But Effie doesn’t take kindly to Curtis’ efforts and berates him with one of the longest and most tiresome songs ever to escape any singer’s mouth. It’s as though Hudson’s trying to get back at each and every one of us for not voting for her on American Idol. Calm down. I get it. You can carry a note.

The one carrying most of the energy in this cast, without question, is Eddie Murphy as the likable, self-absorbed, bigger-than-life entertainer Jimmie Early, a hybrid of James Brown, Little Richard and Elvis. Jimmy Early recruits the three singers as his back-up, but once they find success on their own, Murphy’s character gets discarded for too long and the movie loses steam. Too bad, considering Murphy looks as though he’s been waiting for a role like this after spending too much time talking to animals and wearing fat suits (the upcoming Norbit notwithstanding). He may be recycling from his days at Saturday Night Live, but he’s never looked happier and he hasn’t been this good since the first Nutty Professor movie.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t center around him, but around the tepid drama that unfolds between the three singers and their manager. The characters have been written so blandly that there’s nothing to keep the movie afloat as it segues from one uninspired musical number to the next. Condon does manage to show that he knows how to shoot and cut together a high-energy musical number and the movie is not without its fun moments, but most of them occur within the first half-hour.

As a musical, it has two big problems: First, the movie doesn’t sell us on the idea of characters bursting into song until very late in the proceedings. The first musical numbers are sung on stage before an audience. For those of us uninitiated folk who have not seen the stage version, the first spontaneous musical number feels jarring and unnatural (and by that, I mean unnatural for a musical). The second problem has to do with its self-awareness of the music. The group’s manager always talks about finding a
”new sound,” but the movie itself never finds it. The songs seem to run together with the same production and the same format. The “new sound” will obviously be disco, but we never hear the sound of a genre evolving. We only hear the sound of Broadway, which may well be the antithesis of musical evolution.

With Gods and Monsters and Kinsey, Condon has proved he can depict important historical moments. With this, to a lesser extent, he has proven he can make a decent musical, but can’t seem to mesh the two things together. It feels like half of a good movie. It will likely garner some award buzz and will probably please the die-hard fans of the original stage musical, but I defy anyone to be able to hum a few notes from a single tune from this film after seeing it only once. Occasionally, it has a few good beats and occasionally I can dance to it. But only occasionally.

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originally posted: 12/23/06 14:17:29
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User Comments

10/21/08 mr.mike I am not a fan of musicals. I was entertained. 4 stars
10/14/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 2 stars
9/06/08 Rada Sarbu I only watched it because I'm a fan of Beyonce. Otherwise I wouldn't have seen it. Its good 4 stars
8/18/08 Jeff Wilder An uplifting film with some genuine well-directed anger at the death of soul , 4 stars
7/30/08 the dork knight Not bad.........for what it is. Jamie Foxx is tiresome as usual 3 stars
3/18/08 RF This movie was so overhyped. Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson made this movie worth watc 3 stars
7/05/07 Piz Fairly ho-hum and predictable the entire way, got worse as it went along 3 stars
5/15/07 Nita This movie was good!! Jennifer Hudson has a strong voice...Beyonce needs to sit down! 3 stars
5/14/07 Geoff It was a waste of time. Music was awful. 2 stars
5/09/07 Kerenda I reaaly love this move I cant stop watching it 5 stars
5/06/07 Total Crap I laughed everytime they sang during an argument. This movie is so fake but hudson was ok. 2 stars
5/04/07 Wendy Craig Maybe half an hour worth of story drawn out to 2+ hours. Yawn! 2 stars
4/29/07 David Pollastrini didn't think much of it. 3 stars
2/11/07 Michelle Cozzolino Would rather have watched paint dry; total waste of time 1 stars
2/10/07 Ema yes they picked top actors but the film was poor not a good likeness to motown! 1 stars
2/04/07 andyinindy Miserable. Wanted to walk out but strangely hypnotized by the carnage. Waste of 2 hours. 2 stars
2/04/07 liz cannot believe this thing is nominated for awards. bad bad bad. beyonce only good thing! 1 stars
2/02/07 zev absolute drivel a disgrace to motown 1 stars
1/30/07 sapphire think that eddie murphy is so fine in that movie and jeffer hudson is a good singer 5 stars
1/29/07 malcolm very good but i like more talking in movies, i bet it's amazing on stage 3 stars
1/29/07 brittany i hated this movie...a disgrace to motown and african americans. 1 stars
1/26/07 June Strueber Too shrill; nerve wrackingly unhappy people who one doesn't sympathize with. 3 stars
1/25/07 GinX Brilliant on the stage; loses a bit on the screen. Still worth seeing. 4 stars
1/25/07 chris plain awful. people walking out everywhere. only the simpletons were impressed. 1 stars
1/24/07 mara mara it was soo boooooooringggggggggggg 2 stars
1/24/07 Vee All hype! but if it wasn't for the dull-ass soundtrack I could forgive them it was PRETTY 3 stars
1/24/07 Suzz Ably brings back an era; great performances by Hudson and Murphy 5 stars
1/24/07 andrew pailate Haven't watched a movie with so many people walking out on it! I wish I was one of them! 1 stars
1/21/07 JUDY P. it was way too long. I liked the thrill of the beginning, but thats all 3 stars
1/20/07 fabe Eddie Murphy was the best. Jamie Fox was also good. I am liking him more and more. 4 stars
1/19/07 Paula H. Shallow characters, weak story, soul-less music. Bad adaptation of great stage production. 1 stars
1/19/07 Hollie Loved Eddie, but was disappointed with everything else!! 2 stars
1/19/07 Koitus Eddie Muphy was GREAT; Jimmie Fox was also good. Kind of an "eh" movie... 3 stars
1/16/07 Nora I was disappointed. Eddie Murphy was the best thing in it. 2 stars
1/15/07 Richard Unsympathetic characters. Boring music. Hudson screeches. 2 stars
1/14/07 Tanya This was almost as good as the original play 5 stars
1/13/07 Clayton The movie was subpar, at best, with a flimsy script, awkward directing and flat acting 2 stars
1/11/07 Keisha Tremendously overrated. Entertaining but the storyline was weak. 3 stars
1/09/07 Johnny Shack Hi Folks - I love music, but whn Hudson sang her loud piece, I wanted to jump out of my sea 2 stars
1/07/07 Brian F. Walked out along with another group. Awful songs, dragging plot. BLECH. 1 stars
1/06/07 Firpin The music was not R & B. It was terrible 1 stars
1/05/07 Emar The movie was great. Jennifer was outstanding. You are clueless! 5 stars
1/05/07 Kathy Rivers A bit confussing, trying to find any depth to the cast. 3 stars
1/01/07 Brittney This movie was really good! Jennifer did a great job! 5 stars
12/31/06 Shannon (Erik Childish is Fascist) Loved the Movie but did have story issues. Jennifer Hudson, first time acting...Brilliant! 4 stars
12/31/06 Allen Hackneyed, overrated, boring 2 stars
12/31/06 Angie This movie is all the hype & more! How could anyone not like it? I've seen it 2x; GREAT!!!! 5 stars
12/31/06 tina The over-the-top ballads made me cry, but the story line and acting was sometimes weak 4 stars
12/31/06 mz. nermalz this movie was phenomical. I was worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype, but it did! 5 stars
12/31/06 Charlotte I was disappointed. The story wasn't compelling and the songs were average at best. 2 stars
12/30/06 Y. Nowlin How can anyone take a nap, during one of Jennifer Hudson's powerful performances? 5 stars
12/29/06 julie Was looking foward to a great flick...disappointed..Hudson was the best for sure 2 stars
12/29/06 Sally This is a Broadway musical about the 1960s, and a damn good one 4 stars
12/29/06 martin boring 2 stars
12/29/06 Greg L This movie's both a pastiche of Ross' 70s movies & a catalog of every showbiz morality tale 3 stars
12/28/06 Richard Naujoks This movie knocked me out- the reviewer doesn't like musicals-why is he reviewing it? 4 stars
12/28/06 M.J. Erik, don't be so mean. Those who can, do. Those who can't, criticize. 4 stars
12/28/06 Luisa The singing was good, but it got to the point where "ok enough already!" 3 stars
12/27/06 Carol Carney Why all the hype? Took a nap through it! 3 stars
12/27/06 fenixcarey Okay, so go see it again, take your shades off, turn your EAR PEACE up, then give a review 5 stars
12/26/06 Candice It's FICTION, Erick! See it for what it is, entertainment. 4 stars
12/26/06 Michael When Hudson's "Holiday" performance is called stank, then the wrong person is reviewing 5 stars
12/26/06 T.R. You are too knit picky, this is a musical!! Not a drama! 5 stars
12/26/06 Jeannie Blum I loved this movie. Your reviewer here seems determined to find problems with it. Too bad c 5 stars
12/26/06 Bobbi J. Hudson is an outstanding singer, but they should've let her sing different style songs 4 stars
12/21/06 steven lass Not even close to Jennifer Holliday's performance 3 stars
12/21/06 Lance White I loved it, and so did most of the audience in the theatre! 4 stars
12/16/06 Li Wright Some things I agree with, overall this is a stunning looking and sounding movie 4 stars
12/15/06 Sam Caldwell A Glorious Holiday Movie Worth Seeing 4 stars
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  15-Dec-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 01-May-2007



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Bill Condon

Written by
  Bill Condon

  Jamie Foxx
  Beyonce Knowles
  Eddie Murphy
  Danny Glover
  Anika Noni Rose
  Jennifer Hudson

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