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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.49%
Just Average: 7.02%
Pretty Crappy: 3.72%
Sucks: 17.77%

10 reviews, 182 user ratings

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by EricDSnider

"Spectacularly entertaining. The movie musical is back!"
5 stars

If "Moulin Rouge" brought the movie musical back into vogue, "Chicago" should do a lot to keep it there.

The demise of the movie musical has been lamented much in the past several years. Before "Moulin Rouge" (2001), it had been 22 years ("All That Jazz") since a live-action musical was nominated for a best picture Academy Award, and 33 years ("Oliver!") since one had won.

Oscars aside, when was the last time that a movie musical found favor in the eyes of the American public? Madonna's "Evita" (1996) failed to get audiences singing again; "Newsies" (1992) flopped and subsequently developed a cult following on video, but did little else. The Disney animated musicals did extraordinarily well in the early 1990s, but those ultimately waned in popularity, too. Somehow, it was no longer cool for movie characters to sing, not even in cartoons -- unless they were making fun of musicals, as in the "South Park" movie (1999).

"Moulin Rouge" made musicals hip again, but functioned as something of a fluke. Nearly all of the songs were pre-existing pop tunes reworked for the movie, and the film was altogether much more stylized than an ordinary drama. Basically, if the audience could accept the frenetic editing and other oddities, it could -- and did -- accept that characters frequently burst into song, too.

Now comes "Chicago," the first major film since "Evita" to be based on an existing live show. Such an undertaking is risky. We have already discussed America's on-again/off-again love affair with musicals, which is currently on again but only tentatively. In addition to that, "Chicago" has been very popular as a stage musical, which means a film version runs the risk of alienating those fans. And if you offend the fans, and America in general isn't interested in movie musicals, then who's going to watch it?

The good news is that "Chicago" is a stupendously exhilarating film, so entertainingly assembled that I would not be surprised to hear applause burst forth from movie audiences at the end of the bigger numbers.

It is set in Chicago in the 1920s, when criminals could often parlay their notoriety into fame and fortune (just like today, in other words). Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a vaudeville performer, has killed her husband and sister; Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) has killed her boyfriend; both are on Murderess' Row awaiting trial, under the watchful eye of Matron "Mama" Morton (Queen Latifah). Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), a smooth-talking lawyer, assists them both, seeking his own fame and well-being as much as theirs.

The satire is trenchant and sly, ruthlessly mocking America's love of villains, and the way anyone with a bit of savvy can manipulate public opinion to his (or her) advantage. As a satire, it does not delve deep into its characters psyches; these are types, not people, and that's just fine.

I count myself a fan of musicals in general, and "Chicago" specifically -- but I am also a fan of movies, and I recognize film is a medium that does not always work for musicals. "Chicago" works. Director Rob Marshall (a choreographer who directed the 1999 TV version of "Annie") has deftly steered clear of the obvious problem -- "Why do these ordinary people keep bursting into song?" -- by staging the musical numbers as fantasies. For example, the "Cell Block Tango" number, in which the various women on Death Row recount their deeds, is two sequences interwoven. During the dialogue parts, we see what's "really" happening: The women are sitting around the prison, telling stories. During the singing parts, we see them dressed in black underwear, bathed in red light, singing and dancing on a set that is a prison-nightclub hybrid. It's an effective way of keeping the show's songs intact without having to face the weirdness of vicious killers who warble in their cell blocks.

Most of the songs from the show made it to the film, the notable exceptions being "My Own Best Friend," "I Know a Girl," "When Velma Takes the Stand" and "Class" -- most of Velma's songs, in other words. As a result, the Velma character seems decidedly secondary to Roxie, while the stage version made them co-equals. This makes their eventual decision to team up a little less satisfying, but that may be a quibble.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger both sing and dance like stars, and Zeta-Jones' seductive performance makes Velma's secondary status seem like a compliment rather than a slam, like maybe more of her would have been too much of a good thing. Zellweger captures Roxie's transition from naive would-be starlet into full-fledged media whore with perfect grace and humor.

They are good, yes, but they are overshadowed by -- hang onto something here -- Richard Gere. Is it just me, or does this guy always play really quiet, dull characters? And yet here he is as slick Billy Flynn, talking fast, singing beautifully, and razzle-dazzling his way into stealing the film out from under its female stars. It is easily his most charming performance in recent memory, maybe ever.

(His character also gets the two best metaphors: While acting as his client's "mouthpiece," we see him working as a puppeteer, manipulating the press and his client with equal agility; later, when he's thrown a curveball in court, we see him perform both a literal and figurative tap-dance. I cannot stress enough how delightful the blending of reality and fantasy is in this film.)

It's about time a movie gave us a reason to tap our toes again. Here's to the resurgence of a grand Hollywood tradition.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6494&reviewer=247
originally posted: 07/01/03 01:59:45
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User Comments

8/19/18 Charles Tatum Solid musical, would have loved to see what Fosse could have done with it 4 stars
3/26/18 Suzanne Loved "All that Jazz." Could listen all day. 4 stars
9/13/17 morris campbell good musical 4 stars
2/08/17 Louise Exhuberant musical. Zeta-Jones great but Zellweger miscast. 5 stars
1/07/17 Anne Great musical, effective farce on the legal system! 4 stars
3/02/15 mira storm the two towers or the pianist should've won FUCK ACADEMY 1 stars
8/16/12 edutra awful 1 stars
2/23/12 Andy Best movie musical in years, actually 4 stars
8/06/11 tomA For a guy who doesn't like musicals, I have to admit, I enjoyed this movie 5 stars
12/05/09 Jeff Wilder Overblown sure. But entertaining 4 stars
8/01/09 Samantha Pruitt loved this movie, the music is super addicting! 5 stars
4/07/08 beau good! but not as good 'across the universe' but i enjoyed the acting and the songs 4 stars
1/26/08 Pamela White 15 seconds of fame or how to beat a rap 4 stars
3/15/07 becca umm wasn't so crazy about it 1 stars
2/22/07 Weblynx total fun, vampy, and would watch this a bunch of times 5 stars
2/18/07 Nick Maday I was obsessed with this when it came out. I still like it, but the obsession is gone. 5 stars
1/28/07 Stanley Thai Filled with high energy and great music, Chicago is a great film! 5 stars
1/28/07 Lisa Craven Catherine & Renee were outstanding & I'd love to party with them. 5 stars
10/03/06 Jim L. Burden Great Entertainment! 5 stars
4/20/06 Becky If you don't like musicals, obviously don't see this. Its a great revamp of it, tho. 5 stars
3/30/06 Thomas Semesky The iPod idiots won't like this musical, but it's a classic with great performances. 5 stars
1/02/06 Wiseman I really hated how they didnt warn me it was a Musical, i was so fucking pissed off. 1 stars
12/21/05 cody this movie got best picture, what were thinking, only good in this flim is the acting,stunk 1 stars
10/30/05 Wisamane Ide rather have sex with a meat grinder 1 stars
10/13/05 Jack Garrett The worst musical since Lion King on Ice, RUBBISH! 1 stars
10/04/05 Jesse Taylor The best musical ever. The performances, espcially Zeta-Jones' are outstanding! 5 stars
6/20/05 Bob Kendleton Hammer hammer 3 stars
5/12/05 Jennifer Regan Very entertaining, so much talent 5 stars
4/21/05 Pippin007 This movie is SOO boring! Hoe did it lose to LOTR The Two Towers??????? 1 stars
4/17/05 ELI screeeeeeeeeeeeew yoooooooooooooou 5 stars
4/16/05 nole bore fest. save your money and time, complete garbage.... 1 stars
3/25/05 Denise good 4 stars
2/22/05 gracecchu Took my mother to watch it in the theater, not a bad flick. 4 stars
2/22/05 Joseph Venanzi editing makes anyone look like Gene Kelly 3 stars
2/20/05 fiona fan-bloody-tastic. What Moulin Rouge shouldn've been! 4 stars
2/18/05 Brenda Riley I loved it, hubby hated it! 5 stars
2/18/05 Shel ACK! I was asleep 5 minutes into it 1 stars
2/17/05 Eileen Lammers Loved it... bought it!! 5 stars
2/16/05 Dusty Johnson For a musical I thought it was great. 5 stars
2/16/05 Lisa Jochelson This movie kept me interested from begining to end. 5 stars
2/15/05 Miranda Lahr Great film, that man in boxers ooo 5 stars
2/12/05 Charlene Javier Renee and Catherine were excellent! 5 stars
2/11/05 Aimee Shelton This film, like Moulin Rouge, wasn't nearly as good as all its hype. 3 stars
2/11/05 ray booooring 1 stars
2/11/05 Kenneth Flickstein Great work. Music, dance and STYLE! 5 stars
2/11/05 rebecca gilbert wasn't as much as it was made out to be 3 stars
10/14/04 MARZ BORING 1 stars
9/07/04 Douglas Reese I LOVE THIS MOVIE A WHOLE LOT!!! :) 5 stars
8/18/04 courtney loved it for a musical great cast and make ya wona dance songs 5 stars
8/08/04 usef boring 1 stars
7/19/04 DM Fuck "Moulin Rouge!"; this musical has the goods 5 stars
6/30/04 Daveman A competent stage to screen adaptation of this musical/satire but grossly overrated. 4 stars
6/26/04 May I absolutly love this movie!!! Everyone should see it. 5 stars
6/25/04 M REAL acting, brings back the spirit of movie making. 5 stars
5/18/04 tina a complete bore! 1 stars
5/12/04 Vacha not all that's it's hyped up to be, but the coreography was great and so were the songs. 4 stars
4/24/04 Carla i loved the music, and the story is hilariously unreal. 5 stars
4/17/04 valerie hart great movie if you like musicles exciting scenes which make you wonna sing along 4 stars
4/16/04 Michael Greenwaldt A highly entertaining toe-tapper with very catchy songs and awesome musical numbers! 5 stars
4/11/04 Wildcarde1 i thought this was supposed to be an awesome movie , it gave me a headache 1 stars
3/06/04 Jaco Visser Entriguing to the end! A musical masterpiece! 5 stars
2/28/04 chicago a bust how on earth did this win best picture. watching this was pure torture. 1 stars
2/12/04 Christopher Fantastic Musical 5 stars
2/09/04 c.r one of most dummiest musicals movie of all time! 2 stars
1/24/04 124 dribble. such boring putrid! 1 stars
1/22/04 Phil M. Aficionado Innovative and eye popping. Saw it twice and loved it both times. Bravo!!!! 5 stars
1/15/04 Voice of Reason Academy eats shit for giving oscars to this harpy vomit! "Total Crap" is too complimentary. 1 stars
1/11/04 Atanu An acute case of the emperor's new clothes. And zeta jones is Not classy. 1 stars
1/08/04 Chlo Gyllenhaal And all that jazz!!! 5 stars
1/06/04 George COOL 5 stars
1/02/04 A F FANTISTICly boring. Renee is a bad actress. 1 stars
1/01/04 christopher fantastic 5 stars
12/26/03 ezio boring 2 stars
12/19/03 regis what dribble. laughable 1 stars
12/10/03 christine awesome!!! i could watch it atleast 10 times in a row! 5 stars
12/06/03 sux aweful film. puts you to sleep. 1 stars
12/02/03 Chris Brilliant musical. 5 stars
11/21/03 benice overrated 2 stars
11/16/03 Lara BRILL!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/25/03 gera pretty boring 1 stars
10/17/03 Nunzeo I thought this movie was good. Wow the academy has really lost there minds! 1 stars
10/14/03 Jasper The Imp The Two Towers was robbed of glory by this piece of crap!!! 2 stars
10/11/03 jackson boring movie, more of a chik flick.... 1 stars
10/04/03 Karen Moore Blows UNFORGIVEN way out of the water as worst "best picture" winner ever! 1 stars
9/24/03 fern catherine zeta is a wonderful singer, she should more 4 stars
9/18/03 oOgA_BoOgA absouletely great how could u not love it 5 stars
9/12/03 Monster W. Kung Overrated, but certainly better than that Moulin Rouge drivel (but hey, what isn't?) 3 stars
9/07/03 Amanda extremly enjoyable, awsome soundtrack 4 stars
9/02/03 Kyle Pretty good (for a musical). Wished Queen L. had more than 1 number though! 4 stars
9/01/03 gary a lot of people got up and left during the movie. it was pretty boring. 2 stars
8/27/03 samantha harris 1hr 40mins of total crap! waste of money 1 stars
8/26/03 Katie everyone who says they don't like oviously has no class (pardon the pun!) 5 stars
8/24/03 Stacey Wonderful I can't stop watching it! 5 stars
8/16/03 robbie keane thought i'd enjoy this one.............save your money not worth it! 1 stars
8/07/03 terrence what was this.......complete garbage 1 stars
7/29/03 Eliza It beats Moulan Rouge 5 stars
7/29/03 Abby Who ever said that this movie is crap they are out of their minds it is the best musical 5 stars
7/17/03 Chris Whatever happened to musicals? Chicago tells us we need to make more just like it. 5 stars
7/15/03 BAD BAD 2 stars
7/13/03 STEW whats all the hoopla 2 stars
7/11/03 ingred prolly the years biggest let down.....what a shame 1 stars
7/02/03 susan wakefield wake me when it's over..... 1 stars
7/01/03 ken really dumb 1 stars
6/29/03 John Bale Sweet Charity meets Gentleman Prefer Blondes raunchy vigorous jazz musical technically tops 5 stars
6/25/03 hugh more lke shitago 1 stars
6/24/03 Jack Andrews awesome... it blew my mind away! 5 stars
6/20/03 George Jung Perfect unless you're a dumbass. 5 stars
6/15/03 caramel jenkins boring.....not a very intelligent film 1 stars
6/13/03 not impressed can u say BORING 1 stars
6/12/03 janice to bland too boring.....what a dissappointment 2 stars
6/11/03 Hepta Hooty Worst movie of 2002. Worst "Best Picture" winner ever. Sucks zombie turds! 1 stars
6/08/03 Chuck Perfect... uncool for 20 year olds 5 stars
6/06/03 tonya was'nt impressed 1 stars
5/23/03 TheOthersFan a lot like Moulin Rouge, except for one thing: it's a good movie 5 stars
5/16/03 Mrs.Bloom fabalous couldnt believe how amazing this film was a must see 5 stars
5/16/03 Turtle Never has a musical been so enjoyable! And Richard Gere CAN sing! 5 stars
5/15/03 Piz As a natural hater of musicals, this one was pretty good 4 stars
5/15/03 Chris A wonderful movie ! totally amazing. 5 stars
5/07/03 Magicalme wow good film 5 stars
5/04/03 Catherine loved it 5 stars
5/03/03 boring boring 1 stars
5/03/03 stacy please save ur money. 1 stars
5/01/03 mackie i loved it 1 stars
4/29/03 trojan helen dirty American film 3 stars
4/12/03 Joesco Top notch - Renee unexpectedly good but CZJ outclasses her as a singer/dancer 5 stars
4/07/03 Mystique I love jazz ! 5 stars
4/07/03 Jim CZJ is not only a murderer, she's a thief -- she steals this movie. 4 stars
4/06/03 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng The BEST movie I've seen so far this year. I can't even try to describe how much I love it! 5 stars
4/04/03 Jack Sommersby Not a classic, but a colorful and entertaining ride. Zellweger is sensational. 4 stars
4/03/03 Dominique Black Best movie I have ever seen! 5 stars
3/30/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" Lyrik I love it, though it doesn't deserve Best Film. 5 stars
3/28/03 Shaun full of glitter and stage lights and all that jazz 4 stars
3/26/03 Jen It was pretty good, did have some slow points though. 4 stars
3/26/03 Morgan Chicago is the best movie ever, Well worth the effort! 5 stars
3/24/03 guisada Chicago is EXCELLENT. 5 stars
3/22/03 Cherry U HATES HAVE NO MUSICAL TASTE!.. EAT SUSHI! 5 stars
3/20/03 Michael A beyond excellent experience. The whole movie theatre was in complete awe. 5 stars
3/20/03 Natty Brilliant from start to finish. 5 stars
3/20/03 Beach Nagisa IT IS GREAT and AMAZING!!!! 5 stars
3/19/03 bam great 5 stars
3/18/03 Denise Gomez It's Phenomenal! 5 stars
3/18/03 HE GREAT 5 stars
3/17/03 Shadaan Felfeli A GREAT musical. After seeing 'The Hours'...this is very refreshing indeed. 4 stars
3/17/03 Ed it was a great film... i enjoyed it very much. 5 stars
3/17/03 Sharna i luv it! 5 stars
3/16/03 Denise Reibel I've seen it twice and can't get it out of my head. It's addictive. 5 stars
3/16/03 Chloe Fantabulous, brilliant! 5 stars
3/16/03 TouchyRogue THIS MOVIE ROCKED! 5 stars
3/15/03 Shaun brillent acting and adaption singing a bit weak in parts but catherine shines 4 stars
3/10/03 Hawkeye "And he ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times!" Great stuff. 5 stars
3/10/03 George Raft Great movie! Great music! Finally, an American film at its' best! 5 stars
3/07/03 frank roberts. outstanding fast-paced, great singing and dancing zellweger and jones perfectly cast, 5 stars
3/01/03 JH Coverse Wonderful!! Fantastic!! Awsome!! Zellweger was fabulous !! 5 stars
3/01/03 !! THE BEST FILM 5 stars
2/24/03 ownerofdajoint all stars...what a great flick... 5 stars
2/21/03 Mitsaso Jazzy! 5 stars
2/17/03 LoonyGoon The movie musical is back! 5 stars
2/15/03 R.W. Welch Remarkably polished and energetic musical -- exceptional performances, camera work, editing 5 stars
2/15/03 Jeff It sucked all ass 1 stars
2/13/03 V.K I loved it! it was the best! 5 stars
2/10/03 Goofy Maxwell Great, but tiresome. A little Bazzle-dazzle mighta woken my azz up. 4 stars
2/08/03 Kooler Zzzzzz. Zellweger about as compelling in this role as a dog scratching itself. 3 stars
2/02/03 thejames Not bad film, but not great. 3 stars
2/02/03 scott A GREAT FILM 5 stars
1/30/03 Jake exhilarating! 5 stars
1/28/03 Angolmois I hate musicals but I almost enjoyed this one. 3 stars
1/28/03 Angry Black Man Would have been better if REAL singers were cast. 4 stars
1/28/03 Ed Parry A fabulous film. I actually wanted to applaud some of the musical numbers in the cinema! 5 stars
1/24/03 Matthew Smith exhilarating from start to finish 5 stars
1/21/03 Jen Good film....Good acting....except for Richard Gere 4 stars
1/20/03 LessThanColleen Awesome music with wonderful actors to go alone with it 5 stars
1/20/03 Andrew Callaway Great New Orleans jazz soundtrack... a good film, too. 4 stars
1/17/03 Art Great Flick - 5 stars
1/11/03 Suzz Remarkable film; a don't miss if you like musicals 5 stars
1/11/03 Law amazing! 5 stars
1/10/03 M Why couldn't they get REAL singers and dancers 3 stars
1/08/03 Flounder A great musical, but the liberal message leaves something to be desired. 3 stars
1/06/03 Kenmeister Well-acted and well-sung with a high energy cast. 5 stars
12/31/02 Dave Weston A brilliant film interpretation of a classic musical 5 stars
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  27-Dec-2002 (R)
  DVD: 20-Dec-2005



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