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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 24.11%
Just Average: 25%
Pretty Crappy29.46%
Sucks: 8.93%

7 reviews, 70 user ratings

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by David Cornelius

"Yes, Jennifer Hudson really is that good."
4 stars

I have never in all my moviegoing life heard as much applause for a single performer as I heard roar from the audience watching an early screening of “Dreamgirls.” The cheers were aimed at Jennifer Hudson, the former “American Idol” contestant who makes her movie debut here. They cheered through her songs. They cheered her grand finale. They cheered loudest of all when her name came up during the closing credits. Best of all, every single inch of applause was earned, and the movie knows it: during those credits, it sets up a lengthy, overflowing-with-pride “and introducing” credit to round out its cast list, the titles themselves allowing Hudson one more richly deserved moment in the spotlight. A star, as they say, is born.

“Dreamgirls” is loaded with exceptional performances - Jamie Foxx brings welcome nuance to a potentially one-dimensional character; Eddie Murphy gives the knockout turn we’ve waited to see him deliver for years; Keith Robinson, Anika Noni Rose, and Danny Glover offer up sharp supporting efforts; even Beyoncé Knowles, whose previous film parts have been forgettable bits of stunt casting, lights up the screen with her complex lead role - yet it’s impossible to think back on this movie without first thinking of Hudson. It’s the singing that gets her noticed (most obvious being her epic show-stopper “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”), but there’s also something special about the rest of her performance - the way she holds herself, the way she grows with her character. We get a sense of a real person in Hudson’s Effie Melody White. It’s a case of someone being cast for her vocal chops, then showing she can hold her own, and then some, in the acting side as well.

As for the film itself, it’s a thrilling chunk of entertainment that soars along so well on its extravagant showmanship that you don’t mind the occasionally clunky storyline. “Dreamgirls” is adapted from the 1981 hit musical of the same name; I have not seen the stage version, but judging from the film, I’m willing to guess that it, like “Chicago” (the must-mention film when modern movie musicals are being discussed), focused much more on the music and less on the story. (Broadway fans are sure to correct me if I am wrong.) The plot is little more than an excuse for the many powerhouse tunes, all of which effortlessly replicate the Motown sound and its evolution over the decades. The movie’s first half is a frenzy of R&B goodness, throwing us from song to song to song with wicked abandon, and what great fun it is to get caught up in it all.

But then the movie eventually feels obligated to spend time on the story, which was actually doing just fine working itself out in the corners of the music. Inspired by the history behind the Supremes, “Dreamgirls” follows a girl group as they rocket to fame alongside used car salesman/aspiring music mogul Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Foxx), while witnessing the downfall of former soul legend James “Thunder” Early (Murphy). The sad twist comes when Curtis demotes the curvy Effie from lead singer to backup, all to showcase the more camera-friendly Deena Jones (Knowles) - all while Curtis turns his romantic attentions away from Effie and toward Deena.

In the movie’s first act (which culminates in “I’m Not Going”), all this story mixes flawlessly with the music. Writer/director Bill Condon (who previously wrote the “Chicago” screenplay) balances involving drama, audience-rousing comedy (who can resist the lame-white-guy-steals-the-smokin’-soul-hit gag?), and all those hit songs, without ever letting the hectic pacing overtake the intensity of the story and its characters.

Then comes the second act, which awkwardly jumps ahead to the 1970s, offering (as many musicals do) less music and more cumbersome plot work. Drama becomes melodrama as Curtis becomes a tyrant, Thunder Early slips into a drug habit, and Effie struggles to get by, a long forgotten former Dream. The pace now slower, there’s more time to realize that the story’s not the reason we came to watch “Dreamgirls,” and the second half becomes a bit sluggish.

Of course, there’s still plenty of thrills in this second act, most notably a gala concert allowing the film to parody several Motown stars, including a terrific Jackson Five replica. That concert also allows Murphy to give us what is possibly his finest moment yet on film: an on-stage breakdown that begins with Thunder stuck between his wife and his mistress and ends with a manic striptease that reminds us that this new era of Curtis’ record label has long forgotten the down-and-dirty R&B of its roots, content with mellow, watered-down soul that sells better in Middle America.

Indeed, “Dreamgirls” hides within its toe-tapping, audience-friendly musical numbers a rather bitter tirade against the death of soul. Producers sold out, moguls got greedy, and genuine talent got sidetracked for an easy sell and a pretty face. It’s this anger that ultimately redeems the second half of “Dreamgirls,” which otherwise would have become just another average, overlong rise-to-fame-and-back-down-again story. There may be less music, less enjoyable frenzy, but Condon is relishing a chance at showing us how things go wrong.

Consider, for example, a late scene in which Deena is offered a movie role, her chance to break out and showcase a new talent. The role is a challenging one, but it’s also one that will most likely ruin her good-girl image, and so it must be reluctantly turned down. (Curtis would rather cast her in a big-budget mess of his own making.) Moments like this reveal artists letting fame and fortune put them off track in all the wrong ways.

And then, of course, it all comes back to Hudson’s Effie, who has lived a life away from the spotlight and is all the more hungry, all the more pure for it. Her gradual reappearance into the story revitalizes it, just as the character revitalizes those around her.

So we leave the movie smiling, and humming, and feeling perfectly entertained. “Dreamgirls” is not a great movie, but it is a great crowd-pleaser. You won’t mind the uneven story so much, as you’ll be too busy having fun. This is a big, brassy, sometimes messy, often electric musical experience - with plenty of soul.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15299&reviewer=392
originally posted: 12/27/06 16:25:45
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User Comments

10/20/08 mr.mike I am not a fan of musicals. I was entertained. 4 stars
10/14/08 Shaun Wallner Very Boring! 2 stars
9/05/08 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
7/29/08 the dork knight Not bad.........for what it is. Jamie Foxx is tiresome as usual 3 stars
3/17/08 RF This movie was so overhyped. Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson made this movie worth watc 3 stars
7/04/07 Piz Fairly ho-hum and predictable the entire way, got worse as it went along 3 stars
5/14/07 Nita This movie was good!! Jennifer Hudson has a strong voice...Beyonce needs to sit down! 3 stars
5/13/07 Geoff It was a waste of time. Music was awful. 2 stars
5/08/07 Kerenda I reaaly love this move I cant stop watching it 5 stars
5/05/07 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
4/28/07 David Pollastrini didn't think much of it. 3 stars
2/10/07 Michelle Cozzolino Would rather have watched paint dry; total waste of time 1 stars
2/09/07 Ema yes they picked top actors but the film was poor not a good likeness to motown! 1 stars
2/03/07 andyinindy Miserable. Wanted to walk out but strangely hypnotized by the carnage. Waste of 2 hours. 2 stars
2/03/07 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
1/29/07 sapphire think that eddie murphy is so fine in that movie and jeffer hudson is a good singer 5 stars
1/28/07 malcolm very good but i like more talking in movies, i bet it's amazing on stage 3 stars
1/28/07 brittany i hated this movie...a disgrace to motown and african americans. 1 stars
1/25/07 June Strueber Too shrill; nerve wrackingly unhappy people who one doesn't sympathize with. 3 stars
1/24/07 GinX Brilliant on the stage; loses a bit on the screen. Still worth seeing. 4 stars
1/24/07 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
1/23/07 Suzz Ably brings back an era; great performances by Hudson and Murphy 5 stars
1/23/07 andrew pailate Haven't watched a movie with so many people walking out on it! I wish I was one of them! 1 stars
1/20/07 JUDY P. it was way too long. I liked the thrill of the beginning, but thats all 3 stars
1/19/07 fabe Eddie Murphy was the best. Jamie Fox was also good. I am liking him more and more. 4 stars
1/18/07 Paula H. Shallow characters, weak story, soul-less music. Bad adaptation of great stage production. 1 stars
1/18/07 Hollie Loved Eddie, but was disappointed with everything else!! 2 stars
1/18/07 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
1/14/07 Richard Unsympathetic characters. Boring music. Hudson screeches. 2 stars
1/13/07 Tanya This was almost as good as the original play 5 stars
1/12/07 Clayton The movie was subpar, at best, with a flimsy script, awkward directing and flat acting 2 stars
1/10/07 Keisha Tremendously overrated. Entertaining but the storyline was weak. 3 stars
1/08/07 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
1/05/07 Firpin The music was not R & B. It was terrible 1 stars
1/04/07 Emar The movie was great. Jennifer was outstanding. You are clueless! 5 stars
1/04/07 Kathy Rivers A bit confussing, trying to find any depth to the cast. 3 stars
12/31/06 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
12/30/06 Angie This movie is all the hype & more! How could anyone not like it? I've seen it 2x; GREAT!!!! 5 stars
12/30/06 tina The over-the-top ballads made me cry, but the story line and acting was sometimes weak 4 stars
12/30/06 mz. nermalz this movie was phenomical. I was worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype, but it did! 5 stars
12/30/06 Charlotte I was disappointed. The story wasn't compelling and the songs were average at best. 2 stars
12/29/06 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
12/28/06 Sally This is a Broadway musical about the 1960s, and a damn good one 4 stars
12/28/06 martin boring 2 stars
12/28/06 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
12/27/06 M.J. Erik, don't be so mean. Those who can, do. Those who can't, criticize. 4 stars
12/27/06 Luisa The singing was good, but it got to the point where "ok enough already!" 3 stars
12/26/06 Carol Carney Why all the hype? Took a nap through it! 3 stars
12/26/06 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
12/25/06 Michael When Hudson's "Holiday" performance is called stank, then the wrong person is reviewing 5 stars
12/25/06 T.R. You are too knit picky, this is a musical!! Not a drama! 5 stars
12/25/06 Jeannie Blum I loved this movie. Your reviewer here seems determined to find problems with it. Too bad c 5 stars
12/25/06 Bobbi J. Hudson is an outstanding singer, but they should've let her sing different style songs 4 stars
12/20/06 steven lass Not even close to Jennifer Holliday's performance 3 stars
12/20/06 Lance White I loved it, and so did most of the audience in the theatre! 4 stars
12/15/06 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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