Directed by: Bill Condon
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy,
Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Jennifer
Released by: Dreamworks
Short: Great visuals can’t save this
cliché-riddled take on the long-running
Broadway musical about the rise of a 1960s girl
Show Tune Fans Only
Follows a Tired Formula
be fooled by the classic 1960s Motown look of “Dreamgirls.”
Sure, there are one or two songs early on in this long-running
Broadway musical that has finally been brought to the
big screen, but then that’s it. The rest of the
film is straight out of the show-tune world: corny, predictable,
overacted and with big, overblown songs that would make
Berry Gordy run screaming from the room.
film is loosely based on Gordy’s own story of founding
a Motown label and his creation of a unique soul sound
that took the world by storm, including the Supremes with
Diana Ross at the forefront. However, “Dreamgirls”
is an insipid-beyond-belief look at the music business
he helped build.
it comes in a slick package, with gowns, hair, cars, and
interiors that make the visuals exciting. But once the
good, early moments of the girls’ career rise are
over (about 20 minutes into the film), it devolves into
schmaltzy hokum. There’s the venal, overbearing
manager played by Jamie Foxx, in an obvious, “look
Ma, I’m acting!” performance that makes one
wonder how in the world he won that Oscar for “Ray”
in 2005. There’s the slighted fat girl with the
big voice who isn’t pretty enough to be a star (take
that, Aretha Franklin!), played by “American Idol”
reject Jennifer Hudson. Next is the gorgeous backup singer
who becomes a star supposedly on looks alone (Beyoncé
Knowles, the one bright spot in the film), despite her
ability to sing quite well. And finally, there’s
Eddie Murphy’s all-too-black soul singer, whose
music is too sexually explicit for the white folks’
market they are all trying to break into, and who doesn’t
take well to toning down his act.
if all those stereotypes aren’t bad enough, any
eight-year-old who has seen a few movies could have written
this paint-by-numbers plot, right down to the cloying
happy-ever-after ending. It’s a story simply riddled
with clichés, which maybe seemed fresher when the
show was written back in 1981, but that’s doubtful.
And the replacement of the soulful sounds of Motown with
bland, white-bread Broadway show songs like “Family,”
or “I Miss You Old Friend” is just too painful
to sit through without squirming in your seat.
in those out-of-the-blue moments where the cast starts
wailing their dialogue to each other in song, and unless
you are a die-hard musical fan, you’ll be tempted
to join Berry Gordy in that screaming run from the theater.
So just skip “Dreamgirls” and head straight
to the warm embrace of your iPod, where you can listen
to his real, emotion-filled Motown hits in peace.