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Kiki Overthinks Every Thing
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Kiki Overthinks Every Thing
May 26, 2007
A Beautiful Disappointment
Mood:  incredulous
Now Playing: Dream Girls: The Movie
Topic: Movie Reviews

I was a 9-year-old Brooklynite when Dreamgirls debuted on Broadway in 1981. I remember fondly the radio and television commercials, and bus advertisements for the Dreamgirls as well as for other popular shows at the time (Annie, Evita, A Chorus Line, etc...). I wanted to see every one of those shows, because that's what rich and sophisticated New Yorkers do--the see Broadway shows. When the marketing machine started pumping out the pre-release hype for the film adaptation, I began playing the original cast album over and over in preparation for the movie's Christmas '06 release. (I had to wait until it came out on DVD since I was home, pregnant and on bed rest.) Needless to say, I was extremely excited when the DVD arrived from Netflix. I hadn't had such high expectations for movie since I heard that the new James Bond (Daniel Craig) was sexy , violent and used his hands more than flashy technology. Although 30-minutes too long, Casino Royale lived up to my fantasies and Dreamgirls fell flat.


The story about a singing group who tries to make it big in a dirty record industry and loses their lead singer is a story as old as time itself. We've seen it in movies (The 5 Heartbeats, the campy Josie and the Pussycats), in real life (Van Halen, Destiny's Child, the Jackson 5, No Doubt, etc...) and on Vh1. There's nothing new that can be added to this story, and will only be fresh to those who have just started following popular music and its trends. Dreamgirls is terribly clichéd from the shady business manager to singling out of the beauty as the only bankable talent to one character's tragic death. In this regard, the movie comes off flat. It is so predictable that you're unable to be drawn into the fantasy. As a stage production, it was probably easy to not notice this because the viewer is hypnotized by the lights, the glitter, costumes, the dancing, and the presence of the stars. There's a disconnect with the audience once a Broadway show becomes a movie. (I had the similar reaction to Chicago.)


Dreamgirls is not a bad movie. It just lacks dimension. There is no character development or really no spoken or seen catalyst for their motivations, hence no chemistry between the characters. Jennifer Hudson's overweight big-voiced Effie White and Jamie Foxx's shady music manager/car salesman Curtis Taylor Jr. have a love affair that is ruined when Curtis' record sales ambitions and affection are focused on Deena (played by Beyonce Knowles). When the inevitable break up occurs, it lacks heart because the audience never sees any spark that proved they were even together.


Hudson plays Effie as the sassy, sexy, cocky, diva to the hilt--a complete opposite of her own humble personality. Eddie Murphy does an excellent job playing the outrageous Little Richard cum Marvin Gaye-esque James Early. When these two are own the screen, you can take your eyes or ears off of them. It is their sheer inner-brilliance that brings life to their otherwise one-note characters. Beyonce is does well as the superstar-in-training, Deena. She's unbelievable when she is playing the young innocent singer who frowns on premarital sex, but she does bring vulnerability to the older Deena whose inactions makes her as strong a betrayer as Curtis. Jamie Foxx, who is usually charismatic and charming on screen, is a dull as dishwater.

 To call Dreamgirls a thinly-veiled account of The Supremes and the rise of Berry Gordy's Motown would be a great understatement. Deena's later/solo career costumes, hairstyles, and make-up is basically the look book for Diana Ross' Mahogany. There is a montage chronicling the rise of Curtis' record company, and the acts they feature are dead ringers for The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and the Jackson 5. Later in his career, Eddie Murphy's James Early eschews his old sound for "message music," sports a rhinestone-decorated denim jacket, and crochet cap. If that isn't Marvin Gaye, I'm not an unpaid blogger but a writer for the New York Times Arts & Leisure section.  As unethical and as controlling as Berry Gordy, Jr. might have been, he doesn't deserve the heavy-handed vilification he receives in this movie.

All in all, Dreamgirls is a beautiful disappointment. The acting is solid, the singing is terrific, the songs are catchy, and the costumes are eye candy. The Oscar nominations (and awards) it received were well deserved, and after seeing the movie, I can tell you the controversy about it not receiving a Best Picture nod was blown out of proportion. It wasn't an Oscar-worthy film.


 Oscar Nominations for Dreamgirls:

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 11:48 AM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: May 26, 2007 4:41 PM EDT

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