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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Dreamgirls

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Judy Thorburn

Dreamgirls

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"DREAMGIRLS" JENNIFER HUDSON REIGNS 'SUPREME' IN HER MOVIE DEBUT

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

Twenty-five years after director/choreographer Michael Bennett’s 1981 musical Dreamgirls was a Tony Award winning Broadway smash, the film version finally has made it to the big screen. And, although it is supposed to be a starring vehicle for the beautiful and talented Beyonce Knowles, it is clear that former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson steals the film with an electrifying, breakout performance that is Oscar worthy. From the moment I heard her amazing voice on the third season of the TV reality show competition, I knew Hudson was an untapped talent with a future. After she was wrongly sent home I wondered what had happened to this gifted performer. Well, it’s about time she got noticed and this is the vehicle that is bound to make her star. As entertaining and crowd pleasing as Dreamgirls is, it wouldn’t be the same without Hudson who carries the film.

Anyone who is familiar with the play or followed the hype on this movie must realize that Dreamgirls is loosely based on Diana Ross and The Supremes’ rise to music fame in the mid 1960’s. Ms. Ross, who has reputation of being quite a difficult and demanding diva, should be very happy since her character is portrayed as not only beautiful, but sweet.

Dreamgirls is set in the early 60’s and 70’s in Detroit, the city that gave birth to the music we know as Motown. The fictionalized story relates the behind the scenes goings on during the volatile career of a trio of female vocalists originally called The Dreamettes, later to be known as The Dreams. Under the wing of manipulative used car salesman Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx, in ruthless scoundrel mode) who has ambitions of his own to create a music empire (modeled after Motown mogul, Gordy Berry) the Dreams are catapulted from hopeful singing stars to superstardom. The girls lose a talent competition, but it is there that they capture the attention of Taylor who upstarts their career with an offer to be back up singers to James Brown-like soulman, James “the Thunder” Early, (Eddie Murphy, showing real acting chops like never before) a womanizing drug addict on the road to self destruction.

Eventually The Dreams break out on their own, but with a makeover that tears at the soul of Effie leaving her feeling hurt and betrayed by Curtis who is not only her manager, but also her lover. Although full figured Effie is the lead singer with the powerful voice, Curtis decides that the group would have a better cross over appeal (i.e. white audience friendly) if the slinkier, prettier, but not as vocally gifted Deena is placed front and center as the trio’s new lead. It’s all about making money and Deena certainly looks to be his meal ticket. As if this isn’t hurtful enough, to add salt to the wound, Deena also becomes Curtis’s lover and eventual wife.

Effie’s uncompromising struggle is the heart of the story, and audiences can’t help but be mesmerized by the emotional standout performance of newcomer Jennifer Hudson whose pitch perfect multi layered portrayal of the outspoken, but vulnerable, Effie is matched only by the riveting way she belts out a song from the very core of her soul. When she sings the showstopper, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” she brings down the house. Her vocal performance is so moving it brought well-deserved cheers from the audience at my screening (and I am sure others) who felt the inner pain she evokes after being rejected in more ways than one.

Beyonce is well cast and also good considering her smaller role. However, the emphasis is on showcasing Beyonce’s beauty and glamour in formfitting gowns, wigs and makeup rather than exploring her acting ability. She is actually relegated to supporting role as Deena, an innocent victim of Curtis’s scheming ways, as she, Lorrell and Effie’s replacement in the group, rise to the top of the music world. Deena gets caught up in the exploitation and seedy dealings of her ruthless impresario/ husband and has to pay the price as well as others who fall victim to the ugly side of the business where greed, jealousy, betrayal, infidelity and drugs are prevalent. Only when the truth of Curtis’s harmful actions comes into focus does Deena react in a defying way and then reaches out to make amends with her long-suffering, unemployed former group member and friend, Effie.

To put it in perspective, writer/director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Kinsey) who also wrote the script for the Academy Award winning musical Chicago, must be commended for bringing out the best in his excellent cast and creating another lavish and entertaining theatrical screen spectacle. The story is compelling, the performances dynamic, and the set designs by John Reyes and the costumes by Sharen Davis are all beautiful. The only downside is the songs, which for the most part, are forgettable. Disappointing, they lack the distinct Motown sound and quality they are supposedly trying to recreate. Only the title number “Dreamgirls”, followed by “Changing” and Hudson’s dazzling showstopper number are ones that may resonate in your mind.

Forget the score, (as if you won’t anyway). For all the rest it has going for it, I recommend Dreamgirls. But, the best reason of all is to see a former unknown in a debut that will blow you away. For Jennifer Hudson, this “supreme” role is just the start of a dream come true, and she shines. As for American Idol judge Simon Cowell, who dissed her, he can start eating crow!

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