"In this town, murder's a form of entertainment."
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"They do things they never did on Broadway." Sinatra's love song to Chicago is not needed for the film "Chicago," a successful adaptation of a Broadway show recently revived but premiering over a quarter century ago. The town is gloriously painted in song and dance, imitating the legendary Bob Fosse's style and energy, and recalling the roaring times when gangsters and larcenous ladies ruled the tabloids.
Having blown away a few close friends and family, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger play those ladies in jail and using the notoriously successful attorney Richard Gere, playing Billy Flynn, who gives one of the best thematic lines: "In this town, murder's a form of entertainment."
Beyond the energetic songs, starting with the typically naughty "All That Jazz," is a thin book waiting for the next song. However, there are also themes about the evanescence of celebrity and the showbiz- nature of the justice system.
The three leads are moderately successful considering they are currently film stars. You'd also be surprised at how engaging John C. Reilly is in the "Mr. Cellophane" song. I wished for a true song and dance team, however, to take the film to the next level.
As it is, the musical relies on some very creative pieces such as a marionette sequence where everyone is on strings in a metaphor perfect for a corrupt Chicago. I still love last year's "Moulin Rouge" better for its eccentricity, but both suffer from the quick-cuts and close-ups characteristic of MTV and in-your-face post-modernism. Frank Gabrenya, film critic for "The Columbus Dispatch" expressed my frustration: "But director Rob Marshall's film takes modernity too far. Numbers are edited with a music-video frenzy that chops every piece into dozens of five-second shots. The audience never gets to appreciate the force of a complete performance."
Add my own peeve that there are few long shots ("Roxie" gives us the full view, and Zellweger is the sexier for it) so we can enjoy the entire stage spectacle. You may now understand why I awarded the film a high "B" for our "It's Movie Time" radio show on WCBE.
"It's my kind of town, Chicago is."
John DeSando vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.