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Dreamgirls (2006)

28 February 2007 by Gnoll One Comment


2006, dir. Bill Condon

144 min., Rated PG-13.
Starring: Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, and a cameo by Urkel.

Review by Gnoll

A lot of people are diametrically opposed to Musicals. I’m not one of those people, although I do have a low threshold for pain when it comes to the genre. I liked Chicago, dug Evita, and cite South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut as a work of genius. But Dreamgirls is not in that echelon. And despite it being about the fifth film that the media proclaimed would “revitalize the genre”; it’s actually a big step back.

Let’s be frank here: there was no “snub” at the Oscars. While it might be one of the five best “comedy or musical” films of the year, it certainly wasn’t one of the five best overall. But even that whole “comedy or musical” thing is murky, because it’s nearly impossible to classify by genre half the time. What exactly classifies a musical? Walk the Line won in the category last year, but it’s hardly the kind of movie where people break out into song.

At first, I thought Dreamgirls was along those lines. Like Walk the Line, or Ray, or even going back to Purple Rain, I just assumed this was a movie where music was part of the story, but not used to tell the story, a la Chicago or Rent or The Phantom of the Opera. So I enjoyed a couple of musical numbers for the first half hour, and then all of a sudden, Jennifer Hudson breaks into song while having a spat with manager/boyfriend Jamie Foxx, and suddenly I’m confused.

You see, I get musicals. I get the idea that the film is based on this alternate reality where music is not simply a form of entertainment, but rather a method of communication. But if you’re in this fantasy world where music is so easily utilized by just anyone on the street to tell a story or emphasize a point, then why would people pack in to crowded theater houses to see people do what they can just do any time they want?

Musicals are fine. Movies about music are fine too. But combining the two completely defeats both of the film’s purposes.

Dreamgirls has a few high points, but they are few and far between. Eddie Murphy is awesome and deserved his Oscar nomination, but Beyoncé hasn’t improved much since her Austin Powers turn, and even Jamie Foxx phones in his performance. Jennifer Hudson’s Globe and Oscar wins are based on her musical performances, not her acting. A lot of those musical performances, specifically the big number that Murphy does that gets his character the ax, are rather enjoyable. But for the most part, this is a film that does everything half-assed just so it can rest on its genre’s laurels. After all, a musical is more than likely going to be technically proficient, so it’s easy for many critics to ignore little things like story and character development.

Dreamgirls has very little in those departments, and what it does have is so clichéd that you can see it coming a mile away. We all know that the girl with the magic voice who got ousted for a prettier model before they got famous will eventually fall back in to the fold (but not before she falls on hard times and raises a fatherless child on welfare), despite the fact that her real-live counterpart from the Supremes died penniless at the age of 32.

Oh yeah, and you’re not doing much to make me empathize for the heroine when she repeatedly walks into the welfare office boasting that she didn’t go look for a job because all she wants to do is sing. Thanks a lot, bitch.

One Comment »

  • Susu.ro said:

    I’m an old guy who was around in the 50’s and 60’s when they were cranking out those stock rock ‘n roll biz movies. I’ve seen this movie a dozen times before. Dreamgirls has the clichéd characters and the predictable paper thin plot that were characteristic of the genre. Even in the context of that genre Dreamgirls doesn’t make the grade because it has an instantly forgettable soundtrack.

    I think Dreamgirls was supposed to be a parody of those old movies, but none of the critics got it because they are all too young to have seen them. They are not classics. Dreamgirls takes itself very seriously with not one moment of humor. Therein lies the parody — nobody took those old rock n roll movies seriously.

    As those old rock ‘n roll movies demonstrated, transferring great stage numbers straight to film with twinkie filling between the numbers does not make a great movie.

    My nomination for the most over-hyped movie of 2006 goes to …

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