Dreamgirls (Condon, 2006)

The independent spirit behind the masterpiece Gods and Monsters has finally sold out. After writing Chicago and writing/directing Kinsey, Bill Condon still had some bite to his work. But Dreamgirls proves he’s compromised his laurels as an artist for big budget Hollywood cheese. It’s disappointing too, because with the talent involved in this flashy musical, loosely based on the rise and fall of The Supremes, Condon has plenty to work with. First, Jennifer Hudson is as good as advertised, her voice the only sign of personality or bravado throughout the endless 2 hour plus running time. Second, Eddie Murphy as the original and ill-fated soul musician, shines equally as bright, but with far less screen-time and loving attention. Everyone else, including Jamie Foxx and Beyonce, come across as one-dimensional cliches, mostly because Condon never sets any of them up as characters in the first act. On the whole, everyone acts and reacts like programmed robots, void of raw emotion or true change. Dreamgirls oddly thrusts us right into the rise of the trio of female singers, branding them as pieces of a grander social and musical puzzle coming together before our eyes. Condon creates some memorable musical numbers, and Hudson’s moments of soulful revenge revitalize an otherwise incomplete and tedious story. There just seems to be so much more that can be told, but Condon and company dwell on the formulaic plot points seen in just about every other musical/rise and fall story instead of actually dissecting why “the business” corrupted and destroyed this group of rising stars. Pretty much a mess from the hypnotic opening to the pat ending, held together only by the great music on display.

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