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Chicago

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 02/11/03 14:23:40

"It's not a bad flick but... 'award-worthy'? I don't think so."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Chicago wasn't born a North American box office success. It had to get past some awful (or non-existent) marketing, a tiny platform release and the general public's natural aversion to all things musical, not to mention the onslaught of films like Lord Of The Rings 2, Catch Me If You Can and... I can't believe I'm going to say this... Kangaroo Jack. But it stuck around, built up a roll and even won some awards. And that's where I start to ask questions. Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger, Golden Globe winners for THIS?! Come on, give me a break, who wins a Globe for having passed Basic Dance 101? Chicago is a fine film, a real toe-tapper directed with flair and performed with competence - but ONLY competence.

Among the long line of solid Richard Gere performances over the career of his career, this is not the one that will be remembered. In fact, I'd be have preferred Gere win a Golden Globe for his role in The Mothman Prophecies than this flick.

And then there's Zellweger. Please understand that I'm not saying she can't act. She can. She just doesn't do it very well.

Oh, don't start feeling sorry for Moonface just yet, I'm sure she can dry her eyes with her last ten million dollar paycheck. While in this film Zellweger is more than adequate, as an actress, singer and dancer, she's still far from great. In fact, Catherine Zeta-Jones-Douglas blows her off the screen in every respect, yet CZJD gets no award.

So how does Zellweger do it? How does she maintain this superstar status and bring home awards when she's on nobody's favorite actress list? She's not exactly the most attractive woman on the silver screen, in fact, I've always said her face is so shiny that it seems like she goes home each night to plunge her head into a vat of Nivea cream. Irrespective of my bewilderment at Zellweger's making it to the A-list, she doesn't stink in her Chicago role. In fact, she's pretty good.

So why am I making a big deal about this?

Because she wasn't great. I sat through those Golden Globes and watched Zellweger pretend to cry and figured this Chicago flick must be some kind of epic. Note to future award winners: we saw through this faux weeping happiness performance with Paltrow, Berry and now Zellweger, and it doesn't wash. Save the tears next time, it never looks sincere.

So I'm watching this film and it's good, really well-directed, impeccably shot, designed, edited, choreographed, scored... but only decent on the acting front. And that's the only front I really care about.

This big screen adaptation of the stageplay musical smash is a good mix of theater and film. It completely plays out like a stage show, bringing the audience closer to the story in the process and making us feel like we got a $35 show for our $8 ticket. Written by Gods and Monsters' Bill Condon and impeccably directed by Rob Marshall, the Chicago machine is very well oiled indeed, and it would be a cynical person that could come away saying they weren't at least entertained.

I was entertained. But after those Golden Globe awards, I was expecting more than just entertained. I was expecting great performances too.

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