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Dreamgirls

Effie, Deena and Lorrell make up a trio of singers called The Dreamettes. Performing at a talent quest, they are spotted by opportunistic promoter Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx) who thinks they have what it takes to make it to the top. Initially playing back up to smooth crooner, James ‘Thunder’ Early (Eddie Murphy), the girls branch out on their own, slowly climbing the ladder of success. The glitter and glam of the sequinned life holds several surprises for the soul sisters.
Based on a Broadway hit, Dreamgirls offers a glitzy overview of a chapter in Motown music. Certain real-life performers would be able to see themselves in their fictional counterparts although most emerge with their reputations intact. As their manager tries to perfect the pop package he has created, the women attempt to show their personalities amongst the hype. Against the backdrop of the rising racial tensions of the 60s, the tensions within the band threaten to boil over with as much force.
Movies based on musicals have had mixed success in recent years. Usually the direction and acting have remained in their theatrical roots, despite being transferred to the more flexible film medium. Dreamgirls avoids those pitfalls with a wonderfully opulent spectacle of sound and vision. The musical numbers and set design are well staged, moving the story along at a breathless pace. Whilst some songs seem too contemporary for the films’ setting, others serve to remind of a bygone era of catchy songs where the lyrics were more important than the facade of the performance.
The acting by the female leads is outstanding, all equipping themselves admirably. They never forget to give an actual performance amongst the singing, an important factor in its success. Jennifer Hudson as Effie is a standout amongst the ladies, giving as much gusto and spark her role requires. Eddie Murphy is excellent as James Early, finally coming out of the self induced acting coma he’s been in for the last few years. The role shows how good Murphy can be, injecting plenty of energy that brings the film to life. The only actor who lets the side down is Jamie Foxx, who never seems to come to grips with his role being completely unconvincing as a sleazy promoter. Foxx is one of the main leads showing how mis-casting a role can impact a film.
Dreamgirls is a generally well-made musical that offers up some great performances and fabulous costumes. Those looking for diva tantrums and catfights may be disappointed as the movies’ legal team must have made sure the script didn’t aim too hard at it’s targets. For entertainment value and great music however, the film expertly slinks across the dance floor to its rousing finale.
Rating out of 10: 7

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