Dreamgirls DVD review

In the golden age of Hollywood musicals there were several different ways to integrate the music, and often dance, into the film. The easiest were the backstage musicals, like 42 Street or Singin’ in the Rain, where the music and dance come from the actual production of a musical show, whether on stage or screen. The numbers often come from these productions, and often have little to do with the story in the film, like Judy Garland and Fred Astaire’s bum routine in Easter Parade. The other type of musicals have characters who aren’t connected to entertaining but would still have spontaneous musical numbers which would often help move the story along. Although there always seem to be a few musicals coming out around award season, they mostly conform to the backstage musical, or break out of any realistic portrayal of life and become a postmodern pastiche of a musical. This isn’t always a bad thing, such as was the case with the success of the fantastical Moulin Rouge, but Dreamgirls plays soft between both worlds. This does allow for much more emphasis on the music because of the subtleness in the rest of the film, but all that remains after watching the film is a bad taste of melodrama which is inches away from being R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet at times.

Grammy winner Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose play a trio of singers with no money, just trying to make it when they are discovered by a car salesman and entrepreneur, Curtis (Jamie Foxx), in this film based on the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit. Soon the girls begin to have success, but the ego of Effie (Hudson) starts to get in the way when she is asked to step into back-up singing instead of lead. The reasoning is that Deena (Knowles) has a much easier face for a lead singer, and it works without Effie, who is kicked out after making a scene in the beginning of their career. Effie is quickly replaced and the girls gain success again, only there are many more issues in the future when Curtis puts business before friendships.

Although the melodrama of the story of three female singers as they rise to fame and lose friendships along the way is nothing incredibly special, and may have even been really bad if it weren’t for the music and some great performances. Eddie Murphy has a great comeback with this role, a role which he seems born to play and has a great time doing it as well. Unfortunately he followed up his success with Norbit, but at least he had a brief comeback. Jamie Foxx is also good, as he usually is, but his talent seems somewhat wasted on the one character who seems to grow more and more one-dimensional as the film wears on.

The two-disc “Showstopper Edition” comes with plenty of additional special features, most noteworthy being the full length documentary, “Building the Dream” on the second disc. Disc one has twelve extended musical numbers, including a Jennifer Hudson performance, which seems to be the performance everyone is latching onto. There is also a Beyonce music video on disc one. As well as a full documentary, disc two has auditions and screen tests, photo galleries, technical featurettes and a half dozen other tidbits.   

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