By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
To compete at all with Moulin Rouge or Chicago, a musical in film must be robust and unique with actors beautiful and talented. Dreamgirls is a lively staging of the famous Broadway musical about three gifted girls who make it big with the help of a sometimes ruthless manager.
Could be the Supremes or the Pips, but these actresses carry plenty of their own charisma, especially the American Idol graduate,Jennifer Hudson, as Effie, who belts gospel and pop with equal measures of lustiness and soul, a combination of Ella Fitzgerald and Barbra Streisand.
For the male leads, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) is a believable manager, but Eddie Murphy steals the show as ageing pop star James "Thunder" Early, slightly less manic than the late James Brown but not less ruthless. Taylor morphs James Early and the Dreamettes from R&B into pop and the wealth that attends to the wider audience appeal. Although he changes the big-boned lead from Effie to the whiter, slimmer Deena (Beyonce), and marries Deena, the successful triumvirate struggles with their wealth and loss of the robust Effie, who suffers most of all.
It's all the stuff of American popular glory and tragedy, but entertaining beyond the clich?s and hyped-up show stopping songs such as "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," "One Night Only," "When I First Saw You," and "Cadillac Car." It's glitz and superficiality with a heavy dose of melodrama, but it is as American as that Caddy. Enjoy.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com