Dreamgirls had garnered 8 nominations in the upcoming Academy Awards, but somehow missed out on all the main categories like Picture, Director, and the Actor and Actress nominations. Based on the Broadway musical, with new songs added for the movie (3 of which are in the running for Best Song), it tells of a group of singers' meteoric rise in the music industry in the 60s, and on their trials and tribulation which plague any successful singing group.
If the previous years had musical dramas like Ray and Walk the Line taking their fair share of honors, then this year it's expected that Dreamgirls follow the same formula and footsteps, only that instead of actors, this movie boasts two actual singers in its lineup, one an American Idol reject, Jennifer Hudson, and the other, bone-fide singing sensation Beyonce Knowles, who finally is casted in a movie which allowed her to show off her performing chops, rather than just her body in Austin Powers: Goldmember, or a dumb downed singer role in Pink Panther. Reported rivalry between the two? I'm not sure why the fuss, but clearly, Knowles had taken a back seat and the movie actually allowed ample screen time, and singing time, for Hudson to shine.
While Knowles' performance is way polished, and her fans eager for her character to take the limelight, it doesn't happen until almost an hour into the movie, during which she happily sings as one of the dream triplets. Hudson on the other hand, put up a more heartfelt performance in a role which had a little more depth, and I'm of the opinion that her Oscar for supporting actress, is almost signed, sealed and delivered. One thing to note though if you're watching this movie in a theatre equipped with a decent sound system, listen out (!) for Hudson's eardrum busting vocals.
Rounding up the star studded cast are veterans like Danny Glover, and two comedians turned serious performers Eddie Murphy (whose Norbit opens here soon), and Jamie Foxx. Murphy stars as Jimmy Early, a successful singer in the small time circuit, who seems contended with his comfort zone, and Foxx, in a meatier role, as Curtis Taylor Jr, a car salesman who, in his discovery of the Dreamers and his wheelings and dealings, built up a music empire of his own. I thought Foxx's character was villainous in a certain way, a man blinded by success and becoming one of his own pet peeves. And yes, everyone in this movie sings. Eddie Murphy's performance is almost always full of energy, but fans of Foxx, don't count on him singing too much though, since he's already done his fair bit with Ray.
Dreamgirls is a musical, so expect characters to break out in a song or two, or at times just a line or two. I didn't expect it to happen the way it did though, and was slightly taken aback when songs get interjected into dialogue, so you'll have to remind yourself it's a musical and it's perfectly normal. Loosely based on the Supremes' rise to fame, it tells of the prejudice and dirty tricks employed to get your way to the fame game. Having a good voice and nifty performances don't just cut it, you'll need a manager who's just as sly and cunning to work your way to the big league.
And at times, talent gives way to how the business want things to be done. In the name of record selling and profits, you give what audiences want, compromising craft if you have to. Otherwise you'll have to be prepared to ship out. And it is during their climb to fame, that each character have to face up to changes, whether they like it or not, including replacing leads, or changing styles. You'll see how fame and fortune can corrupt, how envy and jealousy get in the way of something good, and wonder if being unscrupulous is the only way to survive.
Besides the business aspect, love and relationships also complicate matters, with perceived love triangles and breakups amongst the team causing more harm than good. And a common theme running throughout is just how much you'd love somebody, whether as a person, or a product that you can milk for profits.
Great costumes, great singing, great songs, great stage performances and a star cast, Dreamgirls has all the ingredients to what makes a successful musical movie. One thing to note though, I thought the end credits contained a nice touch with its showing of clips relating to what the crew did for the movie. You don't see that kind of a presentation too often.