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A classic story of rise to fame
Beyonce Knowles Stars in "Dreamgirls".
OPENING WEEKEND: $28,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $142,000,000
OTHER PREVIEWS: Alatriste (7/10)
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

July 21st, 2006: In the late 1960s, three close Chicago friends, Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles), Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) form a promising singing trio called The Dreamettes. With Effie’s brother C.C. (Keith Robinson) accompanying them as their songwriter, the group travels to New York to compete in a talent show. Although they do not win, they quickly attract the attention of the ambitious Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx), who jumps at the chance to become their manager. Using devious showbiz tactics, he is able to get The Dreamettes a gig as backup singers for James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy), one of the hottest male R & B singers at that moment. It isn’t long before the girls become superstars of their own right and crossover into mainstream pop. They evolve into a more sophisticated group under the new name, The Dreams. Unfortunately, all the money and fame doesn’t bring them the happiness they desire. Lead singer Effie is coldly replaced by the more attractive Deena and even dropped from the group altogether soon after. Deena too leaves The Dreams to pursue an acting career and when word of various other scandals gets out, the three women learn that the price of fame can be quite hefty.

What to Expect: The screenplay for the film is adapted from a Broadway musical under the same name, which was based on a book by Tom Eyen. The stage show premiered in December, 1981 and went on to win 6 Tony Awards from the 13 nominations it received. The hit musical fascinated many since it was loosely based on the life and career of Diana Ross and her group, The Supremes. Reportedly, Ross even walked out upset after the first act of the play when she first saw it. Needless to say, not all the plot developments parallel the real life situations. In real life, Florence Ballard had an unsuccessful solo career after getting dumped from The Supremes and died at the age of 32 following a life of poverty during the latter years. In the musical, Effie White, whose character resembles Ballard, prevails as a solo performer. That’s a storyline already prepackaged for Hollywood long before the producers even get their hands on it.

Article continues below

Writer-director Bill Condon adapted the screenplay for the film. As a filmmaker he tends to show interest in the real life tragedies that lurk beneath the guise of celebrity or infamy. Both of his highly praised directorial efforts, Gods and Monsters and Kinsey, offered fascinating insight into the minds of individuals that lived in the public eye. His script for Gods and Monsters even won him an Academy Award in the best adapted screenplay category. Couple this together with Condon’s script for the musical Chicago, which also earned him an Oscar nomination, and the director seems like a natural fit for Dreamgirls, which falls within the same genre.

First and foremost, Dreamgirls is a star driven picture. Singer Beyoncé Knowles has nabbed the biggest film role of her young career and one that closely mirrors her own life. Of course, according to early and highly self-promotional buzz, this is the role she was born to play. Jennifer Hudson, a former “American Idol” contestant, was chosen from among 783 hopefuls for the part of Effie White. Ironically, Fantasia Barrino, the eventual winner of American Idol that year, was one of girls that Hudson beat out for the role of a lifetime. Tony Award winning actress Anika Noni Rose also lands her biggest screen role to date and rounds out the trio as Lorell Robinson. Legendary comedian Eddie Murphy makes a bit of a comeback in his first live action role since 2003 and it has been even longer since he was in a picture with this much potential. His character is somewhat of a cross between James Brown and Marvin Gaye and early rumors suggest that Murphy may have put in an award worthy performance. Last, but not least, Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, who already got to display his musical prowess in Ray, will once again below out a few tunes. Although he lip-synched in Ray, he will get a chance to use his real voice in Dreamgirls. The actor admitted that he declined the part originally because he was not satisfied with the compensation, but reportedly renegotiated and slashed his price considerably after hearing that he had a chance to star opposite Beyoncé Knowles and Eddie Murphy.

At the recent Cannes Film Festival, DreamWorks screened approximately 20 minutes of the musical to an absolutely delighted audience. The film’s $70 million budget has been used quite effectively in a glossy and stylish recreation of the time period. Most importantly however, the songs are supposedly very catchy and engaging, even after just one listen. This is a classic and revealing, behind-the-scenes showbiz story – a look at the downfalls of fame and an allegory about knowing when to walk away. Director Condon has described the film as emotional, but fairly gritty and grounded in reality. In fact, he has even substituted some of the songs he originally planned to include for scenes of traditionally spoken dialogue.

In Conclusion: Ever since Chicago won big at the Academy Awards, the musical has made a comeback to the silver screen. Unfortunately, subsequent adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera, The Producers, and Rent failed to achieve the same momentum. My first reaction to Dreamgirls was relatively ambivalent, primarily as a result of the somewhat clichéd storyline and the aforementioned disappointing attempts at musicals. Furthermore, it felt like the film was being promoted as an American Idol-type of movie. I am not a terribly big fan of the show and the idea rubbed me the wrong way. I’m sure promotion of this sort is not likely to cease since that’s what is bound to get millions of people into the theaters. Eventually, I realized that there is much more to the production, but I still feel a little apprehensive about the conventional ideas Dreamgirls lays out.

Similar Titles: Chicago, Ray, Walk the Line
December 25th, 2006 (wide)
December 15th, 2006 (limited)
May 1st, 2007 (DVD)


Bill Condon

Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Hudson, Keith Robinson, Bobby Slayton, Hinton Battle, Sharon Leal, John Krasinski

Total: 103 vote(s).

Drama, Special Interests

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for language, some sexuality and drug content

131 min






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