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PCR # 353  (Vol. 7, No. 52)  This edition is for the week of December 25--31, 2006.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Three and a half stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

Casino Royale, The Book and The Movie: An Appreciation  by Greg Van Cott
"Dreamgirls"  by Mike Smith
Crappy Anniversary: 20 Years Without Cult Movies  by Andy Lalino
That Time of Year....Blowing Our Horn....Passing On....Top 10 Movie Lines....Next Year....My Favorite Films, Part 52: "Die Hard"  by Mike Smith
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Starring: Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover and Jennifer Hudson
Directed by: Bill Condon
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 11 mins

At the close of the Academy Awards for 1987, Best Picture presenter Eddie Murphy made a heartfelt speech about the lack of black nominees. He ended by adding, "I may never get an Oscar." 20 years later, Murphy shines in "Dreamgirls"and he may just be proven wrong.

1960's Detroit. A large crowd is gathered for a local talent contest which will be followed by a concert appearance by James "Thunder" Early (Murphy). One of the groups competing call themselves the Dreamettes. The group consists of Deena (Knowles), Lorell (Anika Norii Rose) and Effie (Hudson). The organizer of the contest is a local car dealer named Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Foxx). When Early's backup group quit, Curtis arranges for the girls to take their place. Curtis also hires Effie's brother, C.C. (Keith Robinson), who is a gifted songwriter. C.C. writes a song that Curtis feels will hit the top of the charts. However, before he can properly promote "Thunder" Early's record a toned down "read - "white") version hits the charts instead. Early wants to let his emotions flow when he sings. He wants his music to have "soul." Curtis does his best to reign in the emotion, feeling that audiences will support the music more if they don't feel threatened. When Curtis gets Early a gig in Miami, Early quickly pulls out the funk, alienating the audience. Curtis decides to drop Early and give the girls a shot at stardom as The Dreams. Only he needs to make some changes first.

A first class musical loosely based on Motown and the rise of the Supremes, "Dreamgirls" is a rare example of a great Broadway musical made even better on film. Director/writer Condon, who also wrote the screenplay for the film version of "Chicago," has opened up the show and by doing so gives his actors a bigger canvas to work with. He also captures perfectly the music industry of the late 1950's and early 1960's, when all American boys like Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson covered "black" music and made it acceptable to the masses. In the film Curtis realizes music is all about image. In doing so, he replaces bold and brassy lead singer Effie with demure, light skinned Deena, relegating Effie to back up duties. As the group grows popular, infighting begins. And soon the dreams turn into nightmares.

Hats off to Condon for choosing a perfect cast to tell this story. Oscar winner Foxx does a fine job as Curtis, a man who isn't afraid to hurt himself or the ones he loves to get his records sold. Knowles and Tony award winner Rose add a glamorous touch to the proceedings, while supporting players like Glover, Robinson, Hinton Battle and Ken Page keep the film moving. But the revelations here are Hudson and Murphy. One of the greatest moments in Broadway history occurred at the end of Act 1 of "Dreamgirls" when Jennifer Holiday, who originated the role of Effie, brought down the house with the heart wrenching "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." It was a moment that is still talked about 25 years later. When Hudson, a former finalist on "American Idol," delivered the song the audience I saw the film with burst into applause when she finished. With this role Hudson, like Holiday before her, announces herself as a talent to be reckoned with. As for Murphy, his performance as James "Thunder" Early ranks with "The Nutty Professor" as his greatest film performance. As a cross between Sam Cooke and James Brown (who sadly passed away this week), Early is a proud man who doesn't want to soften his image or his music to appease others. Because of this he slowly fades away, until he feels he has been forgotten. Murphy delivers both musically and dramatically and I will be shocked if both he and Hudson aren't nominated for Academy Awards.

Technically, the film is almost perfect, with high marks given to the set and costume designers. The musical numbers are well staged and fans of the Broadway show will be pleased to see Loretta Devine, who originated the role of Lorell, in a small musical cameo. As the movie year comes to an end, "Dreamgirls" is a film that hits all of the right notes.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "Dreamgirls"  Three and a half stars

This week's movie review of "Dreamgirls" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2006, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.