Saturday, December 30, 2006

What They Did for Fame

DREAMGIRLS, a lavish film adaptation of the Broadway hit musical, comes across as a glitzy, glamorous singing extravaganza. But behind all the wigs, glitter and gowns, this movie deals fairly realistically with what was done to make black entertainers commercially successful amid the racial prejudice and discrimination of the 1960s and 70s.

Beyonce, Anika Noni Rose and Jennifer Hudson portray The Dreamettes, a trio reminiscent of the famous Supremes. Jamie Foxx plays the underhanded Curtis, who takes control of The Dreamettes in more ways than one. After engaging in an affair with Effie (Jennifer Hudson), probably because she is the leader of the group and the best singer, Curtis decides that Deena (Beyonce) should sing lead. Why? Her looks, of course. Naturally, that does not sit well with Effie, especially since she knows Curtis is now also sleeping with Deena. After Effie receives her walking papers, The Dreamettes become The Dreamers, who go on to achieve great fame. Meanwhile, Effie ekes out a meager existence until her songwriting brother (Keith Robinson ) helps her give Curtis his comeuppance.

Although DREAMGIRLS lacks enough dancing and humor to rank as one of my favorite film musicals, the performances here are superb. Beyonce never ceases to amaze me with her singing talent, and Jennifer Hudson, an American Idol reject, will surely become a big star after her sensational debut in this movie. However, the biggest surprise in DREAMGIRLS is Eddie Murphy and his explosive portrayal of a singer also managed by the unscrupulous Curtis.

Ironically, the most memorable song in this diva-oriented musical is WHEN I FIRST SAW YOU, a ballad performed by Jamie Foxx that expresses how Curtis feels about Deena. What an absolutely lovely number! DREAMGIRLS may have some minor flaws, but highpoints like this make up for them.


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