Dreamgirls. Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx,
Danny Glover, and Jennifer Hudson star in a film written by Bill
Condon and Tom Eyen and directed by Condon.

Reviewed by Max Burke

The Hollywood movie musical was just a few years ago an
endangered species. But now, thanks more to Baz Luhrmann’s
exemplary Moulin Rouge! than to the over-hyped Chicago of a few
years back, the movie musical is a genre on the rise. Enter
Dreamgirls, this season’s crossover hit-in-the-making. Brought to
the screen by supremely confident director Bill Condon, the
relentlessly over-the-top and genuinely entertaining film can’t
rise to the challenge of becoming more than the sum of its

However, those individual parts are more than enough to satisfy
even the most cynical holiday movie-goer. Beyoncé Knowles as Deena
Jones, a fictional character loosely based on Diana Ross, and Jamie
Foxx as music manager Curtis Taylor ground the cast with two
excellent performances. Eddie Murphy pours himself into the role of
Jimmy Early, a soul singer modeled most closely on James Brown, but
whose character also contains nods to Marvin Gaye, Wilson Pickett,
and Stevie Wonder, among other R&B luminaries. His every
appearance in the film is a delight, and the performance is worthy
of any and all accolades it receives.

Jennifer Hudson’s star-making turn as Effie White also serves to
raise the film above its commercial, crowd-pleasing pedigree. Effie
is the most talented of the three Dreams, but is jilted out of the
spotlight in favor of the more generically talented and overtly
attractive Deena (Beyoncé). All of the hype and hyperbole
surrounding Hudson’s performances is warranted and both her acting
chops and stunning vocal performances serve to make the film better
than, perhaps, it ought to be.

In the end, Dreamgirls navigates the fine line between base
entertainment and genuine social commentary and character
development. The end result is a film that is incredibly successful
as a spectacle, but doesn’t succeed at much else. However, thanks
to excellent technical merits (the cinematography and editing of
the big dance number is impeccable) and phenomenal performances,
Dreamgirls is never less than truly compelling entertainment, and
there is nothing shameful about that.


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