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Movie Review: Dreamgirls

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If you don't like musicals, Dreamgirls isn't going to change your mind. Even though most of the numbers take place in the real world, which is to say, they're actual musical numbers in front of an audience that would actually gather in real life, there's still plenty of bursting out into song in the middle of a conversation. Which brings us to the best number in the musical.

I bought "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" off iTunes after about the 30th viewing of the Dreamgirls trailer. Seriously, that song could make any movie look good. I could cut together a montage of the trailers for Tursistas, Unaccompanied Minors and Deck the Halls to "And I Am Telling You" and you would think it was the best shit since Casino Royale.

Having said that, I hadn't actually heard the movie version. The version on iTunes (and in the trailer) at the time was the Jennifer Holliday version from the Broadway show. I had heard that the new version was bringing audiences to their knees. The audience I saw it with, admittedly a rowdy sneak-peek bunch predisposed to like the film, started losing it after the first note and went crazy when it was all over five minutes later. Me and Dr. Wife were both more than a little verklempt.

Jennifer "I can't believe she lost American Idol" Hudson gives what has to be one of the most moving, emotional performances I've ever seen, just in those five minutes, not to mention the rest of the film. This must be why people watch American Idol, at least after the hilariously sucky performers are weeded out. If a song were an Oscar clip, this would be it. The only problem is, every number after that pales by comparison.

So yes, the buzz you've heard about Miss Hudson is true. At the end, when the credits read "And introducing Jennifer Hudson," they might as well read "And for your consideration, Jennifer Hudson." And while we're talking about Oscar chances, Eddie Murphy. Yes. A thousand time yes. With one look, towards the end of the film, he earns a nod. Not to mention reinventing himself musically. Clearly, "Party All the Time" is a height that can never be reclaimed, but who'd have thunk he could take his impersonation of James Brown from Delirious and turn it into a nuanced performance (with a little Marvin Gaye thrown in for good measure)?

Bill Condon, of course, brings the mad direction and the costume design is outstanding.

Will it win the Big One? I can't say, but with the possible exception of Best Foreign Language Film, there's hardly an Oscar this can't win.

For my own personal awards, I'd say this is in direct competition right now with Borat for my favorite film of the year.

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About David Dylan Thomas

  • I wouldn’t go so far as to call the score soul-free, but, like most musicals, it’s evocative of the style it’s meant to represent as opposed to a direct sample. I’d say most of the songs in Dreamgirls sound about as close to the R&B/Soul/Disco music that inspired them as, say, the songs in “Grease” sound to the 50’s rock that inspired them.

  • DDT:
    I haven’t seen the movie yet, although I saw the show and have heard the music.

    What’s your reaction to the criticism that it’s a story inspired by the history of black pop music from James Brown to Motown to disco, yet has a fairly standard, soul-free Broadway-style score? (With the possible exception of the one big over-the-top dramatic number that was the highlight of the stage show as well as, apparently, the movie.)