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Dreamgirls (7/10)

by Tony Medley

Even though I love Broadway musicals, I wasn’t a fan of this on the stage, mainly because I didn’t like the music. On film, the story is much more compelling, but I still didn’t like the music. To me, there’s little difference between this music and yelling. Exacerbating that, it was far too loud. I had to put my fingers in my ears for each and every musical number. The music was simply deafening. If you go see this, take ear plugs.

I would imagine that everyone knows the story, which is based on Diana Ross and the Supremes. In this film the group is called the Dreamettes. At the start they are a lead singer, Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) and two backups, Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose). They hook up with smooth-talking promoter Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx), who, himself, hooks up with up-and-coming singer James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy).

Effie is far and away the best singer in the group, and starts a relationship with Curtis. But when Curtis finally gets enough power, he switches Effie to backup and promotes the beautiful Deena to lead singer and swaps beds at the same time. In essence, Effie gets dumped.

Despite the music, I did like the story and the acting. Hudson does a remarkable job creating the strong-willed Effie and communicating the hurt she endures. Murphy gives a spectacular performance. Foxx does a good job in a role that doesn’t require too much.

Had I liked the music, I would have loved the film because writer-director Bill Condon clearly respects the music. There aren’t those quick cuts that ruined “Walk the Line” (2005) and diminished “Chicago.” He stays with his singers and doesn’t have interlinked scenes during the songs, as ruined many fine production numbers in “De-Lovely” (2004).

This is kind of like an opera because many of the songs constitute monologues by the actors. In summary, the acting and directing and story are good, the music is not my cup of tea and too loud, and it’s too long at a little over two hours.

December 12, 2006