Dreamgirls (12A)

ANDREW CLARKE Based on a best-selling Broadway show, Dreamgirls tells the story of a girl group and the car salesman who not only discovers them, but launches his own label, Rainbow Records, on the back of their success. With Beyoncé Knowles.

ANDREW CLARKE

Let's forget about debate, let's forget about balance and objectivity. My heart tells me - no, my soul tells me that Dreamgirls is the most imaginative and foot-tapping musical since Baz Luhrmann's great red curtain movie Moulin Rouge.

In comparison, Phantom of the Opera and Director Bill Condon's previous movie, Chicago, seem rather pedestrian and old-fashioned.

Based on a best-selling Broadway show, Dreamgirls tells the story of a girl group and the car salesman who not only discovers them, but launches his own label, Rainbow Records, on the back of their success.


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Along with these charming Dreamgirls comes CC, brother of lead vocalist Effie (Jennifer Hudson) who has a good ear for a catchy lyric and a neat musical hook. Watching the film it's hard not to realise that this is a fictional account of the rise of Diana Ross and the Supremes along with the Motown label and in-house writers Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Jamie Foxx is the Berry Gordy-alike record boss Curtis Taylor Jr, while Beyoncé Knowles is the sweet-looking Diana Ross clone Deena Jones and Jennifer Hudson is Effie White, the girl who is left behind.

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The movie opens at a Detroit talent contest in the early 1960s. The Dreamettes don't win the show, but they produce enough reaction from the crowd for local entrepreneur Curtis Taylor to book them to back rock'n'roll legend James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy) - in a career re-energising performance.

Murphy's Early is part-James Brown, part-Little Richard and part-Sam Cooke. He's also an inveterate womaniser which is the reason he can't keep backing singers for very long. He has the eye for the main chance and is happy to sacrifice his long-term manager (Danny Glover) when it seems that Taylor Jr (Foxx) can land him better gigs.

His debut engagement before a white audience at a leading Florida hotel is a disaster, but it is clear that his backing group will do better. Early is sent back out on the road while the Dreamettes are re-groomed, renamed as the Dreams and sent on as the main attraction - but with the big-eyed Deena Jones replacing Effie White as the lead singer.

They are a huge hit, but a split is brewing as Effie can't stomach the fact that her boyfriend (Foxx) sacrificed her place for a less talented singer. Effie quits the band and descends into obscurity while the Dreams clock up hit after hit.

Condon cleverly combines fantastic stage musical style show tunes with the sound of Motown and the spirit of soul during those all-important rock'n'roll years.

The changes in music as well as clothing chart the passing years brilliantly without the need for date captions being flashed up on the screen. He makes great use of camera work, too, cross-cutting from 1960s-style TV shows, stage appearances and the behind-the-scenes turmoil of the various characters' domestic lives.

It also covers a lot of ground without making the audience feel that it is sitting through either a musical history lesson or a soap opera. All the characters look and sound like real people - complete with flaws as well as good intentions.

It's this ability to connect with the audience as well as the infectious music and Condon's dazzling ability to recreate the look and feel of the times which makes Dreamgirls a real winner.

Sit back and enjoy the magic.

 

 

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