White music? What crap!!
Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) are three life-long friends that share something that we all have in common: dreaming. They all dream of one day, becoming the best singers in the whole, entire world and will stop at nothing to have that dream come true. After a show-stopping performance one night, they get picked-up by cool, collective, and charming manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), who promises them that all of their wildest dreams in the world will come ture if they just stick with him and his main act, aging-superstar James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). However, as usual, once things get hotter and bigger as the years go by, times start to get tougher, egos begin to clash, and people start to give up on all their hopes and dreams.
I’m not ashamed to say it, but I do love musicals. Well, let me correct that: I do love musicals when they are done right. This is one of those instances where it is done right for the sole purpose that the movie makes no gripes with trying to do anything new or original, it’s just having fun being itself. People singing, dancing, lip-syncing, and doing some heavy-emoting can always guarantee a fun watch, that’s if you can handle it and can handle what the director has done with it, which is why Bill Condon was such a great choice for this material, despite it not seeming so in the beginning.
Condon seemed like a strange choice for this type of material, but after watching it, you’re going to wonder just why the hell he hasn’t dabbled in music much more? He obviously seems to be loving every second he’s working with this movie, the cast he has time to play with, and even better, takes the music and singing seriously. It’s weird how some songs are filmed as if they were performed in a concert and then, out of nowhere, people start singing and dancing to each other on the street as if it was a cut-scene from Grease, but it didn’t matter because Condon barely even had me noticing after awhile. Once I got used to it all, I realized that this was a movie all about people singing their freakin’ hearts out, and you can’t ever go wrong with that.
Then again, there are those types of people that will get on your case for liking a movie like this, regardless of if you’re a dude or a chick. If you’re a chick, it’s sort of obvious and cliche for you to like this, but for guys? Just forget it! Dudes get picked on for liking movies like this all of the time, but what I always wonder is why? If the movie is having fun, wants you to have fun, and is singing it’s heart out til the time the final credits roll-up, then what’s the problem with liking it? You like Nirvana, you like Jay-Z, and you like Metallica, which is something we all accept for what it is, but once some man comes right out and says that he enjoys musicals, all of a sudden, he’s a huge softy? Awww baloney, I say! Baloney!
Anyway, besides that rant up above, I really enjoyed myself with this movie because Condon seemed to as well. The music is entertaining, catchy-as-hell, and surprisingly, even for a major, Hollywood production, very energetic. Most musicals like to do its song-and-dance, chill out for awhile, mellow things down, and then bring it all back up for a big old, grand finale, but not this one. This one keeps the blood pumping, the attention span up, and the lungs flailing, without ever seeming to miss a beat. Well, without missing a beat in the musical sense. In the actual story sense, well, there are plenty of beats being missed.
Being that this is a musical about the age old story of having dreams, gunning for them, and never giving up to achieve them, the story does go into places that are fairly conventional and predictable. Obvious themes like how fame overpowers friendship, love vanishes once control comes into play, etc. all show up, do their thang, and leave with a push of a button. It doesn’t take too much away from the flick, but it doesn’t seem to ever really give it an original stamp that the musical genre hasn’t played with before. Everything plays out like you’d expect it to, but with the exception that everything here is practically sung and danced to. Sometimes.
Oh well, at least the movie is still entertaining for what it is and that’s also mostly thanks to the huge cast Condon was able to assemble here. Jamie Foxx is fine as the ambitious manager, Curtis Taylor Jr., and is obviously the Barry Gordy-type in the way that he wants shit done his way, or the highway. Foxx is very good at this type of role because you see the charm of his character fade in, and then totally black-out once things get so big for the ladies. Beyoncé Knowles plays Deena, the apple of his eye and the leader of the singing-group (aka, Diana Ross), and is fine, even if all her character really does is look a little disappointed with the way Curtis is acting and treating her, and singing her fucking heart out. Which, in her case, can’t really be that hard to begin with.
“Bitch, quit asking me to impersonate that donkey again!”
Playing the one whom she eventually shit-cans to the side of her, for fame and glory, is Jennifer Hudson as the lovable, plus-sized diva that can sing better and can stick up for herself more than any other woman in this movie, let alone just little, poor Deena. As we all know, Hudson won the Oscar for her role as Effie and with good reason: The chick is not a great actor, but a way, way better singer than anything else. Obviously, she will always be remembered for her jaw-dropping rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,”, but even when she isn’t telling Jam-Foxx and all of the other girls to go ‘eff themselves by using her vocal-chords, she’s still pretty good as the sassy gal that won’t put up for nothing. Hudson is a very underrated actress and I think it’s about time that she started getting more quality roles in Hollywood, rather than just some nun in the Three Stooges movie. Yup, that was her.
Another star in this movie who found their name getting some Oscar attention was Eddie Murphy as the aging, but still sturdy soul man known as James Early. Murphy is dynamite in this role because whenever Jimmy is fun, quick-witted, and having a great time on-screen, so is Murphy and you can tell that he’s working with material he really appreciates. However, when Jimmy is being a bit down in the dumps, upset, and a bit unstable, Murphy shows shades of his acting-prowess that we’ve never seen before from the dude (even in Pluto Nash, if you can believe that!). It’s no surprise that Murphy was nominated for his work here, as it not only was a change-of-pace for a guy that seemed to be putting on the same silly face for the past 30 years, but because it gave the guy a chance to show us what he’s got, even with the short-amount of time the dude may have had on-screen. Hey, if the Academy wasn’t being so generous to old-school vet Alan Arkin that year, Donkey might just have been looking at some Oscar gold that year. However, we all know who the Academy loves to favor in a position like that. Wah.
Consensus: You might not find yourself realizing that Dreamgirls changes the way, the look, or the structure of the movie-musical, but you will still find yourself humming along to the tunes, toe-tapping away, and enjoying the hell out of yourself with material that seems to be doing the same as well.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!
The days when music used to be performed by a live band, in the studio, with real people singing, dancing, and playing. My oh my, how times have changed.
Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Joblo