In 1981, the musical Dreamgirls, the story of a 60’s girl groups rise to fame took over Broadway, winning six Tony Awards. Now, 25 years later, writer and director Bill Condon brings that story to the screen and Dreamgirls has Oscar gold written all over it.
The film begins at a local Detroit talent show, where the Dreamettes, — Effie White (Jennifer Hudon), Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) — meet Curtis Taylor Jr., played by Jamie Foxx. Taylor, an ambitious car salesman appoints himself the girls manager and arranges for them to sing backup for James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy).
Dreamgirls then follows the Dreamettes, later renamed the Dreams, journey from Jimmy Early’s backup singers to legendary recording artists as the group faces challenges along the way. After Deena is promoted to lead singer over the original lead singer Effie, because she is more marketable, the original members go their separate ways. The Dreams is renamed “Deena Jones and the Dreams” whiles Effie battles poverty and single motherhood.
In a stellar cast that also includes Danny Glover and Keith Robinson, it is Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy performances that steal the show. Hudson, who before Dreamgirls was best known for being wrongfully booted off American Idol, delivers an outstanding and powerful debut performance that is almost guaranteed an Oscar win. As Jimmy Early, Eddie Murphy gives his best performance in recent years and like Hudson’s, it is Oscar worthy.
With its great music (including the new songs written for the film), excellent direction, superb acting, and one-of-a-kind musical numbers, Dreamgirls is destined to pick a few Academy Award nominations and even some wins.
After Chicago won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Picture, there has been a rebirth of the movie musical with Phantom of the Opera, Rent, and The Producers all being adapted into motion pictures. The problem with this is that none of them were all that good. While Dreamgirls isn’t the greatest musical of all-time, it is a reminder that movie musicals can be and are fabulous when done right.
Updated October 12, 2010