I’ll come clean right at the start. I don’t like ‘serious’ musicals.
Not that I have a problems with all musicals – I’m a fan of both Chicago and the South Park movie – but there’s a certain ridiculousness that such a movie needs to work. Because if you’re not silly to begin with, when characters start communicating through song, you’re certainly going to get silly pretty fast.
So, as Dreamgirls is a serious film, when the characters start singing their lines, I have to suppress a shudder.
Of course, plenty of people love this and if you’re one of them you will enjoy Dreamgirls more than me.
And it’s not as if I didn’t like it a lot. This is one of the movies (with The Departed, The Queen, Little Miss Sunshine, The Sands of Iwo Jima, United 93 and Babel) leading the pack in the various award ceremonies, and it’s easy to see why.
Dreamgirls is the screen version of a musical loosely based on the career of famous American girl group The Supremes.
The film opens with three young black women with a stack of talent and a stack of naivety trying to get a break into the big time. They are the Dreamettes: giggly Lorrell and beautiful Deena (Beyonce Knowles, in a clever piece of casting) and the star turn - Effie (Jennifer Hudson), the one with the big personality, big body and titanic voice. Dreamgirls traces the career of these women, which is heavily influenced by their ambitious manager Cecil Taylor (Jamie Foxx) and sleazy, charismatic soul singer Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early (Eddie Murphy).
Dreamgirls does not always flow well, with some choppy shifts between scenes, and tilts into melodrama towards the end. But, that aside, it’s a well-made film. The editing and costumes are exceptional, as are the performances from Hudson and Murphy. Murphy crackles with energy and shows he can portray emotional complexity too, while Hudson (a failed American Idol finalist) is a revelation as the proud and passionate Effie. It helps that she has a voice that could make a waterfall stop to listen. Kudos too to Knowles, who shows she is more than just a lovely face and voice.
Best of all, Dreamgirls is packed from wall to wall with great music. After hearing it, it’s hard to suppress the urge to go out and buy the CD. The soundtrack, if not the movie itself, really is great.