Classic Review: Dreamgirls: Classy and Fantastic Musical Adaptation

Translating a hit Broadway show to a big Hollywood movie could be the easiest thing to accomplish. Sometimes it’s handled perfectly like Chicago or Fiddler on the Roof, or expectations don’t live up to it like Rent. Now with the adaptation of Dreamgirls has gazed upon our eyes, it’s incredible how well this turned out to by. As the first musical number kicks in, it’s impossible not to latch onto what’s being showcased for the viewing audience.

Based on Tom Eyen’s award-winning Broadway musical, singers Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Deena (Beyonce Knowles), and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) are about to find out what it’s like to have their dreams come true. Discovered by an ambitious manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), gives them a shot at stardom opening for James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). As the success grows faster, the fame comes with a cost grows higher.

Like a lot of musicals based on their counterparts, I’m not familiar with what’s being given to me. While researching for the film, this was loosely based on the Supremes and Berry Gordy’s Motown learning that Florence Ballard was replaced with Diana Ross. If it’s that case for coming up for the fictional story, it worked tremendously. Though I’m not the biggest giver of musicals itself, this sounded intriguing as it revolves around Motown and R&B, which is a great taste of music in my case. As it stands for a musical, writer/director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Kinsey) gives us a memorable and time changing adaptation with Dreamgirls. Surprisingly enough, he did write the screenplay for Chicago. Go figure.

Everything about Dreamgirls is electrifying and dazzling presented in the art direction and elaborate costume design making it feel like we’re transported to the ‘60s. Condon easily knows how to capture a kind of vintage looking film that keeps the running time beating without skipping a beat. The story is ultimately timely as it spliced into the time of difficulties of the civil-rights movement. And it truly focuses on the rise and struggle of an artist that could head to addictions and other problems. Does it have trouble falling into those kinds of cliché that makes the film a bit predictable? Yes. But it’s executed well enough for forgive its formulaic story.

The performances are beyond incredible with one of the best ensembles of 2006. Not a single dull moment of acting was seen. Foxx is always-on-top with a role that has him being front and center as Curtis. He plays the type of character that goes from likable to downright hateful as the film progresses. He’s already a singer so it wasn’t a big stretch for him for singing. This is one of his best performances alongside with Ray and Collateral.

Beyoncé hasn’t been a lot of films as she primarily focuses on her infamous music career. But she was glamorous as Deena. Besides looking stunning, she’s still the finest singer in the world providing that flavor with these songs including a new song, “Listen”.

Most comedic actors wouldn’t do these kinds of dramatic roles. However, Murphy pulls out a career-best as Jimmy “Thunder” Early. He’s just crushing nearly all the scenes he’s in. He balances the funny side of him and hard-hitting side to a tee. Coming from SNL, he’s finally gives it his all with his singing vocals and charisma flowing through him which makes him a mixture of James Brown and Marvin Gaye. It sucks that he’s been in a rut with these terrible movies being released with caused him losing the Oscar to Alan Arkin. Blame Norbit.

Anytime these big movies have a star that completely steals scenes left to right, it’s undoubtedly a supporting role. Jennifer Hudson is the definition of a scene stealer. She was a finalist of the third season of American Idol and it’s bad luck for them because this is the biggest debut role of a lifetime. Her as Effie White was fearless and powerful. She nails everything she could possibly handle. And her voice is magnificently flawless. You can say Jennifer Holliday from the stage version was good. But Hudson’s rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is a show stopper as it will break your heart as it’s filmed and sounded on a scale that reaches all heights. She did win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and it’s totally well-deserved.

The musical numbers were beautifully entertaining as it still has the flare of excitement throughout the film. Featuring the original music from Henry Krieger, there’s a lot of momentum flowing through the actors singing. Besides “Ant I’m Telling You…”, got your “Fake Your Way to the Top”, “Family”, “Dreamgirls”, etc. along with a few new songs. It’s quite possibly the best at channeling the original to Michael Bennett vision.

Dreamgirls enthralled the gravitas of a well-made musical providing performances and amazing musical numbers alongside.

Grade: A-


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