Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dreamgirls

Posted on Thu, Dec 21, 2006 at 4:00 AM

****1/2
Dreamgirls
Studio: Paramount Pictures, DreamWorks SKG
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Beyonce Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Jennifer Hudson
Director: Bill Condon
WorkNameSort: Dreamgirls
Our Rating: 4.50
I love music, but I hate musicals. Unless they're singing in Hindi, I just can't deal with the jolting unreality of characters breaking into song in order to move the plot along. Not even in Moulin Rouge. Yet this big-screen adaptation of Dreamgirls has two things working for it that most other musicals don't: First, the characters don't 'break� into song; they smoothly segue into it, and even then, it's not until the near-midpoint of the film that you notice you're watching a musical, rather than a movie with lots of music in it. Second, and most important, none of those other musicals have Jennifer Hudson singing in them. Playing the faux'Florence Ballard character of Effie in the movie's faux-Supremes, the Dreamettes, Hudson's typhoon of a voice and warm, appealing presence dominate every one of her scenes � even when she's smoldering in the background. This is appropriate, as the tale is essentially about how the real Ballard was pushed aside by Motown. For once in her life, Beyoncé Knowles is forced to play second fiddle, which is a fantastic bit of irony. Though Knowles attempts to inject her faux'Diana Ross with humanity, her reedy voice, stick-figure frame and creepy imperiousness make her all too much like the real thing and, by comparison, make Hudson's take on Effie that much more compelling. Motown fanatics could pick Dreamgirls apart on questions of accuracy ' Eddie Murphy's barnstorming character is a weirdo mix of Eddie Kendricks, Marvin Gaye and, uh, Little Richard. And as far as I know, Florence Ballard died; she didn't magically transform into Roberta Flack ' but that would just be ruining the fun. This story blazes through the Detroit sound, the '60s and '70s, discrimination, betrayal, greed, pride, loyalty and redemption and so much more. It does it with songs and it does it exactly right.

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