Review: Dreamgirls (2006)

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

Here’s Another AFI List (Blah)

I feel really blah and out of it today. Plus I just realized that the American Film Institute announced another movie list…. in September. So now I am blah and behind on the times. Here it is:

1 Singin’ in the Rain 1952
2 West Side Story 1961
3 The Wizard of Oz 1939
4 The Sound of Music 1965
5 Cabaret 1972
6 Mary Poppins 1964
7 A Star is Born 1954
8 My Fair Lady 1964
9 An American in Paris 1951
10 Meet Me in St. Louis 1944
11 The King and I 1956
12 Chicago 2002
13 42nd Street 1933
14 All That Jazz 1979
15 Top Hat 1935
16 Funny Girl 1968
17 The Band Wagon 1953
18 Yankee Doodle Dandy 1942
19 On The Town 1949
20 Grease 1979
21 Seven Brides For Seven Brothers 1954
22 Beauty and the Beast 1991
23 Guys and Dolls 1955
24 Show Boat 1936
25 Moulin Rouge!

How many have you seen? Any major oversights? Sound off below.

Never Fear: Hairspray Is Almost Here

John Travolta (with newcomer Nikki Blonsky) on the set on the movie Hairspray. Travolta is playing Edna Turnbolt, the role originated by Divine in the 1988 movie and reprised by Harvey Fierstein on Broadway. [SOURCE]

And here’s an article from USA Today about why John Travolta was the right man for the job.


Review: Swing Time (1936)

Every Thursday night I host a classic film series where I play Robert Osbourne for the evening and talk about the greatest movies ever made. This week’s film was Swing Time.

Swing Time is perhaps the finest of all the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers collaborations. It is the story of Lucky,a vaudeville performer, played by Astaire, who is tricked into missing his wedding and in order to marry his fiancee he must make $25, 000. To earn the money, he ventures off to New York. Here he meets, Penny, a dance instuctor, played by Ginger Rogers. Lucky and Penny end up as dance partners and love interests. But of course their happiness together never really begins because both of their fiances come back to haunt them.

Swing Time is a fun dance musical (much more dance than musical) that really shares the talents of Astaire and Rogers. It combines witty humor and lovely songs to create a wonderful movie. (The song, “The Way You Look Tonight” won an Oscar in 1937 for Best Song and is ranked #43 on AFI’s Greatest Songs List.)

Take it from someone who never truly enjoys musicals, any opportunity to watch the two of them dance is worth it. Sometimes, I’ll even fastfoward through the dialogue just to watch them dance. It is as though you are swept out onto the dance floor with them.

Updated October 6, 2010