Dreamgirls features an amazing debut

Dreamgirls isn’t the dream come true some have already made it out to be. As far as smart storylines go, there’s a definite void of substance in this otherwise glitzy feature, based on the Broadway production of the same name. That said, as one dimensional as Dreamgirls is, the production is huge, showy and stuffed with highly structured toe tappers, belted out by artists who do them justice.
Flimsy plan? I dunno, it worked for Chicago.
Come to think of it, bringing up a former Best Picture winner at this point might be a bit of a sore spot for Dreamgirls; many were left wondering last month why Bill Condon’s feature was nominated for a heap of individual Oscars, but failed to snag a nod for Best Picture.
After seeing Dreamgirls, the reason is really quite evident; the performances in this movie are much better than the movie itself. That’s not to say the movie is a bad one… far from it. Just that the performances are that good.
The spotlight, even on a marquee boasting names like Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Beyonce Knowles, falls on former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson — and the buzz is true, hers is an amazing debut.
Hudson plays Effie White, a member of The Dreamettes, a mid-60s Detroit-based, Supremes-like vocal group (White is obviously modeled after Florence Ballard who was unceremoniously dumped by the Supremes in 1967 for lack of “crossover appeal” and died shortly thereafter). Effie is also the lover of Curtis Taylor Jr. (Foxx, doing his best Berry Gordy Jr. impersonation), the car salesman turned musical entrepreneur who serves as the group’s manager.
Once the Dreamettes hook up with soul singer James ‘Thunder Early’ (Murphy) and the accolades begin to pour in, Effie is replaced… both onstage and in Curtis’s bed, by Deena Jones (Knowles), who moves from backup to the star-making Diana Ross slot. When Hudson pumps out the movie’s show stopping tune, And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going, the sheer emotion in her presentation sums up the rivalry and bitterness better than this rather lightweight script ever could.
The winners here, and Oscar will most likely agree, are Eddie Murphy who hasn’t shown this kind of zeal since his days of lampooning James Brown on Saturday Night Live, and Hudson, who puts in a rookie effort so unbelievably effective, it’s going to be tough act to follow up. Based on what she accomplishes here though, the girl’s capable of anything.
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give ‘Dreamgirls a three and a half.
The feature is coming soon to the Roxy Theatre in Revelstoke.