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Dreamgirls Movie Poster|


Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by
: Bill Condon
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Jennifer Hudson
Released by: Dreamworks

In Short: Great visuals can’t save this cliché-riddled take on the long-running Broadway musical about the rise of a 1960s girl group.

For Show Tune Fans Only
“Dreamgirls” Follows a Tired Formula
by Jenny Peters

Don’t 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.

Cast of Dreamgirls
Cast of Dreamgirls

The 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.

Sure, 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.

Jamie Foxx and Beyoncé Knowles in Dreamgirls
Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls

As 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.

Add 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.

(Updated 08/30/07 NJ)

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