I am the first to admit that I love Broadway musicals! The more over-the-top and with fun sing-a-long music they are the more I love them! Love Chicago! Love The Phantom of the Opera! Love Cabaret! Love Cats! Don’t pass that last one on! So naturally I was looking forward to the film adaptation of the Broadway musical “Dreamgirls” by director Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods and Monsters). I sat down looking forward to 2 hours of song and dance.
The musical was loosely based on a Supremes-like girl group, a Berry Gordy-like record label and all that great music from the 50s and 60s coming out of Detroit. The Dreams, comprised of Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles – The Fighting Temptations, The Pink Panther), Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose – From Justin to Kelly) and lead singer Effie White (Jennifer Hudson – first film), are three young girls from Detroit, Michigan who are trying to become a famous singing all-girl group. Though they are talented they cannot seem to catch a break. That is until they catch the eye of Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx – Stealth, Ray), who becomes their manager and gets them a gig as the back-up singers for James ‘Thunder’ Early (Eddie Murphy – Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places). Once the girls get their own opportunity as headliners, Curtis and composer, C.C. White (Keith Robinson – Fat Albert) – Effie’s brother, decide that Deena should be the lead singer even though Effie has always been and has the best voice. This causes tension within the group, so much so that they begin to implode. Faced with their first conflict as a group the girls have to make some hard choices, decide what is best for the group and their careers and learn how to live with the consequences if they are going to become the stars they have always dreamt of being.
I thought that Bill Condon was an inspired choice to direct the film as he had previously made two Oscar nominated films. Then the Golden Globe nominations came out and “Dreamgirls” got a ton! Colour me excited! Now my more ‘critic’ side should have taken over and tempered my enthusiasm at this point, but it didn’t and my reaction to the film suffered as a result. I thought the film was good, but not great. I definitely was not bowled over by the music…sorry to say.
The songs by supporting actress and former American Idol competitor, Jennifer Hudson were full of emotion and she without a doubt has a great voice, but were not for me.
The acting was just alright except for Hudson (the only non-actor of the bunch). Surprisingly, the most flat acting came from the actor with the most experience, Jamie Foxx. His performance was quite wooden and especially during the singing scenes he looked very awkward. Despite all the buzz, even Eddie Murphy’s performance did not do it for me. Maybe my view of his performance was clouded, however, by the fact that every time he sang I wanted to cover my ears and howl! He should not ever sing again in my books!
There were positives to the film. The adaptation from stage to film was seamless and I was glad to see that Condon had kept the feeling of a stage production in several scenes. It is fabulous to look at. The costumes, lighting and musical numbers are all great. A star is born in Jennifer Hudson. She steals the film right out from under everyone. Her acting is up to par with her singing and her show-stopping song “And I Am Telling You” is a real showcase of her abilities. She was deserving of her win in the Best Supporting Actress category. But in the end it was not enough for me and I left feeling empty and definitely not singing any of the songs.
- Theatrical & Director’s Extended Edition via branching
- Jennifer Hudson – Auditions and Screen Test
- Audition: Can He Even Sing
- Audition: What About Me
- Audition: And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going
- Screen Test: And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going