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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 MP Bartley

"If it's not over til the fat lady sings, why does this film never end?"
2 stars

When the nominations for this years Academy Awards were announced, there was a lack of surprise that Dreamgirls took the most with 8 nods. The surprise turned to shock when everyone realised that these 8 nods did not include Best Film or Best Director. How could this have happened? Surely there must have been some mistake, people said. No, it's actually quite simple - Dreamgirls just isn't that good.

Loosely based (depending on whose lawyers you ask) on the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Dreamgirls focuses on the rise of The Dreamettes, an all black girl group hoping to ride the wave of the Motown explosion and make it big. They constitute the shy Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), the sweet and sexy, but somewhat bland Deena (Beyonce Knowles), and the feisty Effie (Jennifer Hudson), who takes centre stage amongst the girls despite being on the larger size for your typical girl group. Starting off as backing singers to James 'Thunder' Early (Eddie Murphy) a sleazy, hyperactive star of the time, their potential is quickly spotted by Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx) a man who'll stop at nothing and step over anyone to achieve success. Gathering up The Dreamettes and their songwriter, the principled and talented C.C. (Keith Robinson), the group hit the highs before inevitably succumbing to the downsides of break-ups as Effie storms out of the group when Deena is pushed to the forefront of the group, resulting in arguments, affairs and drug addiction.

It was a no-brainer that once Dreamgirls was huge hit on stage, a film adaptation was inevitable, following the footsteps of Chicago, Rent and The Phantom of the Opera. Following in those footsteps however, also proves that the pitfalls that those films fell into are pretty hard to avoid, as while it may be nowhere near as bad as The Phantom of the Opera, it's still quite a way from Chicago - which was pretty average anyway. It's also a no-brainer that if a musical is to be a successful film adaptation then you need a director who knows how to direct music. Bill Condon however, is not that director. His direction is flat and uninspired, never capturing the flavour of the period, the feel of life on the road on never ending tours (you never smell the greasepaint here like you smelt the sawdust in Walk the Line), and failing to convince us that the film takes place over a ten year period - no amount of bad wigs will ever convince us of that.

His staging of the musical routines, quickly becomes predictable, with a touch of motion sickness setting in due to the amount of times he resorts to simply swirling the camera around characters as they warble away to each other. One scene in particular however is unintentionally hilarious as the characters form a circle around Effie, imploring her to stay and singing that they're all a family. It looks like a bad Lionel Ritchie video, but what makes it car crash viewing is the sullen performance Foxx gives. Looking utterly fed up, he acts like a 6 year old forced to participate in a school play and sullenly mutters the words of song with as little effort as possible. It's a great scene - not just the way it was intended. Ah, but surely the musical numbers give it a zip above the average direction - after all, that's what saved Chicago. But no, there isn't a single number here that will stay in the brain for long afterwards. Indeed, all the songs are strangely anarchronistic, with none of them being the subtle yet rich R'n'B that The Supremes specialised in. Instead, the majority of songs are big cauterwauled ballads, more akin to the collective works of Celine Dion or Mariah Carey.

With a poorly developed screenplay and musical pallete to play with, the cast end up being a mixed bag. Curtis is variously described as a snake throughout as he uses and abuses people, and Foxx delights in being an absolute bastard. A bastard who could sell you anything, but a bastard nevertheless. As his polar opposite, Robinson also turns in a fine performance, while Knowles takes to her role easily. Rose however, seemingly drifts out of the film halfway through and becomes quickly interchangeable with Effie's replacement. The critical talk however has rested squarely on the shoulders of Murphy and Hudson - one deserved, one not so much. Murphy is a preening and explosive delight on stage, channelling the spirits of Little Richard and James Brown into his performance, as the kind of performer who would give middle America a heart attack if he was allowed into their homes. It never becomes more than a one note performance however, as we see very little of him off stage, particularly when his career hits the skids. Sure, he becomes a drug addict - but that's practically a given in these films. There's a lot of flash here, but no heart - which is precisely Dreamgirls big problem. You never truly care for anyone.

Nominally, you should be caring for Effie, but Hudson's performance makes that virtually impossible. For 'fesity' read 'argumentative' 'bolshy' and 'grating', as she does nothing but get in people's faces if she doesn't get what she wants. It's pointed out to her at the end that she wants all the benefits of fame, but not the responsibility and that's true. But it's a lesson she never learns, as the film has other characters come to her aid constantly. Is she hard done by? Perhaps, but she never tries to help herself either, preferring to sulk instead of trying to work at her situation instead. Can Hudson sing? Yes she can, but she doesn't know when to stop, with each of her vocal performances getting louder, louder and BLOODY LOUDER. She warbles, she shrieks, she doesn't know just when to JUST. STOP. WARBLING. It drowns out any genuine emotion the songs might have in favour or big, big, and bigger notes and the final effect is annoying instead of ingratiating. Give her a Grammy sure, but an Oscar? Please.

And that's why the film doesn't really work. There's not enough Murphy and far too much Hudson. The real story is going on in the sidelines, while the limelight is being hogged by one of the most selfish, irritating and downright ignorant characters that's ever been the main figure for the audience to connect with.

There's an episode of Quantum Leap where Sam Beckett leaps into a member of a similiar girl group in the Motown era, and that manges to tell a more entertaining, evocative story in half the time. If you want to truly sample the Dreamgirls experience, I suggest you buy the best of Shirley Bassey on CD, crank it right up to 11 and stick your head next to the speakers until your eardrum bleeds. It's not over til the fat lady sings? Promises, promises...

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originally posted: 02/09/07 20:58:06
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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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