Director Bill Condon brings Tom Eyen's Tony award-winning Broadway musical to the big screen in a tale of dreams, stardom, and the high cost of success in the cutthroat recording industry. The time is the 1960s, and singer... more »s Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), and Deena (Beyoncé Knowles) are about to find out just what it's like to have their wildest dreams come true. Discovered at a local talent show by ambitious manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), the trio known as "the Dreamettes" is soon offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of opening for popular singer James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy). Subsequently molded into an unstoppable hit machine by Taylor and propelled into the spotlight as "the Dreams," the girls quickly find their bid for the big time taking priority over personal friendship as Taylor edges out the ultra-talented Effie so that the more beautiful Deena can become the face of the group. Now, as the crossover act continues to dominate the airwaves, the small-town girls with big-city dreams slowly begin to realize that the true cost of fame may be higher than any of them ever anticipated.« less
"For those of you who aren't familiar with DREAMGIRLS it was a hit Broadway musical, created in 1981, based "loosely" on the real monster girl group The Supremes, Berry Gordy and Motown. And although it took almost 25 years to make, the movie version is spectacular.
Following the meteoric rise of the fictitious "Dreams," the story takes place in Detroit in 1962 and ends in Los Angeles in 1975. In between you witness the joy, sorrow and bitterness--as some dreams die, while others live. And being a period movie, DREAMGIRLS doesn't feel dated or unrealistic. It captures the excitement and turbulence of the 60s or at least the romanticized ideal of it...perfectly.
I won't list the 12 songs but the title track "Dreamgirls" and the show stopper "And I Am Telling You..." are not part of this 12. With the exception of the song "Effie, Sing My Song," at least from what I could tell, most of these musical numbers are just different edits/film cuts than those that made it into the film. For instance, you'll see more of the performance rather than the cutaways to other scenes, which you see in the movie...so they're not sung differently. What's good about this is that you get to see the entire performance of the opening acts(The Stepp Sisters, L'il Albert and The Tru-Tones, Tiny Joe Dixon) without the cutaway shots that show what's going on behind the stage. No additional lyrics: the songs are exactly as they are on the deluxe edition music cd of Dreamgirls: Music From The Motion Picture [2-CD Deluxe Edition]. One alternative musical number that's very different is the song "Effie, Sing My Song." In the movie, the lines are spoken. However they did film the song version where C.C. and Effie share a duet. And that's included here.
***DVD #2 DOCUMENTARY ON THE MAKING OF DREAMGIRLS; ORIGINAL AUDITION AND SCREEN TEST VIDEOS; FEATURETTES ABOUT THE FASHION, FILM EDITING, THEATRICAL LIGHTING; PRE-VISUALIZATION SEQUENCES; IMAGE GALLERY
In all fairness, I haven't seen the entire second dvd. The reason being is that the documentary on the making of DREAMGIRLS is nearly TWO-HOURS long! Running at one-hour and fifty-five minutes, the documentary called "Building the Dream" chronicles the journey that started as an idea from Broadway creators Tom Eyen, Henry Krieger, and Michael Bennett to finally becoming the most hyped and anticipated film of 2006. But don't worry, that's not the beef of the documentary. Most of it takes you behind the scenes of what it took to put this huge movie together from the set design to the casting; from the choreography to staying true to the original score. It's a fascinating look at the challenges director Bill Condon faced when deciding to take on this project. I always thought that "Dreamgirls" would've been easy to make into a film because you already started with everything in place. How wrong I was! Not only are you competing in a genre not too popular today, but you have to compete with the beloved original. Well, I must pay homage to Condon. He pulled it off. Anyway, the documentary is told through home video of the recording sessions, casting calls, set design, rehearsals etc., as well as principal cast member interviews and of course the main people working behind the scenes like director Condon, executive producers, choreographers, music producers etc.
If nothing else, this documentary alone is worth the extra price for the two-set dvd of DREAMGIRLS.
And for those of you die hard fans of the original Broadway show or soundtrack, who liked this movie version, will be happy to know that the song "A'int No Party" is supposed to be included in the "audition tapes" section of the special features. There is a snippet of it in the documentary and Anika Noni Rose was working that song. So I'm sure it has to be included in the screen tests. But even if it isn't, remember I haven't seen the entire second dvd, the documentary "Building The Dream" makes up for it.
Anyway, if you enjoyed the movie, you'll enjoy this dvd set. It's a dream that will give you "more and more." If you haven't seen the movie, well you're in for a treat. It's exciting and keeps you at the edge of your seat. And not being an action film, that's saying a lot!
Eddie Can Sing!
B. Merritt | WWW.FILMREVIEWSTEW.COM, Pacific Grove, California | 05/15/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Musicals aren't really my thing. Many feel forced as the cast breaks out into song at the most bizarre of times. Cheesy is perhaps the best descriptor, but occasionally I enjoy a good toe-tapping flick if it's done right. And DREAMGIRLS is definitely done right. It certainly ranks up there with MOULIN ROUGE and CHICAGO as one of the more recently successful musical films, it too being a period piece (covering the late 50s through the early 70s).
Acting in these style of films tends to lend itself more to dance moves than actual roleplaying of characters, but there are two highly mentionable performances in Dreamgirls: first time actress Jennifer Hudson of American Idol fame, and a major comeback role for Eddie Murphy. Hudson took home Best Actress trophies from The Golden Globes, The BAFTAs, The Screen Actors Guild and The Oscars for her portrayal of Effie White, the powerful and ultimately embittered lead singer for The Dreamettes. Eddie Murphy as James "Thunder" Early is surprisingly excellent, perhaps helping wash away the stains of DADDY DAYCARE and THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH from his more recent, acting, downward spiral. Murphy can sing alongside Hudson and Beyonce and hold his own, too.
The added entertaining fact about Dreamgirls is that there's an actual story behind the music, making this film much more watchable than many musicals which rely solely on their high notes rather than acting skill. This story is firmly entrenched in the early music industry as a "white-washed" form of entertainment, separating it from "black music"...until Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx, JARHEAD), a car salesman in search of more, jumps into the music biz and launches his own record label (Rainbow Records). Foxx's Taylor character is another smashing success for him in that he makes this man both lovable and despised as he turns from caring manager to control freak.
Likewise, Murphy's Early character is someone who's moral ground we're never quite sure of. He's a married man with womanizing tendencies, but he's also a musical purist, trying to create sounds that are true to him while at the same time dismantling what he once was (a great, yet small, singing sensation). His fall from grace hits the viewer hard as heroin, time, and his own industry begin taking their toll.
But veterans Murphy and Foxx can't hold a candle to newcomer Hudson's performance. She is the crux that holds the entire production together, and she does so with power, grace and a great emotional range. The ending is sure to choke-up many viewers.
The only complaint I can lodge against the entire film was within one small section where Effie (Hudson) breaks out into a long chorus about being wronged by Foxx and the other Dreamettes. This seemed rather awkward and I would've liked to have seen this acted out in dialogue rather than burst into song.
Still, this is a powerful musical film that deserves much praise ...and has rightfully gotten it."
It's Wonderful Entertainment
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 04/05/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Dreamgirls," originally a hit Broadway production in the 1980s, is a lavish musical inspired by the history of Motown and its super group The Supremes. Like the songs in "Grace of My Heart" which is clearly based on the career of Carole King, the soundtrack music of "Dreamgirls," good as it is, can't match the power of the real Motown sound. Actually the film's musical numbers hardly sound like Motown Sound, but still some of them are real showstoppers thanks to the film's gifted stars, especially the dynamic singing voice of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson.
In "Dreamgirls" you should not expect much from the story, which runs a familiar course of superstars or celebrities, with the meteoric rise of three R&B singers (played by Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose) to the fame and their subsequent troubles and ego-clashing within the members and their shrewd, business-minded producer/manager (Jamie Foxx). It is a same old story you have heard somewhere else in gossip magazines. .
Once the three girls' dreams come true with the glitter of showbiz, it takes the center of their lives, and once it does, none of the characters are allowed to breathe much. Anika Noni Rose and Danny Glover are not given enough time for their characters, and even the role of Beyoncé Knowles is not fleshed out satisfactorily. Eddie Murphy is outstanding as a popular singer and ladies' man named James "Thunder" Early (with a haircut like Little Richard's), but there is nothing new in Thunder's story about his love affair and fading stardom.
Still I enjoyed watching "Dreamgirls". I know it has lots of shortcomings, and I hear the complaints from the fans of the original stage (which I haven't seen). Yes, I know. Perhaps the number of the film's shortcomings depends on each viewer's taste or expectations, and I liked the filmed version of "Dreamgirls" for what it is. I like it for its entertainment values such as gorgeous costumes, beautifully staged live scenes and cinematography, plus the powerful, emotionally-charged songs by Jennifer Hudson, all of which compensate for the lack of a better story."
What's on the DVDs
Flipper Campbell | Miami Florida | 03/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Paramount just announced "Dreamgirls" for May 1, the campaign starring a double-disc "Showstopper Edition" with a glitzy package of extras. The title also is coming out with in two-DVD sets for both HD formats (unusual) and a single-disc DVD version with some deleted scenes.
The box art mentions Jennifer Hudson's Oscar, but the big type goes to the film's Golden Globe for best picture. Smart marketing since the movie didn't make the cut to get into the Academy Awards' best pic race.
Par promises "12 extended and alternate scenes including a DVD-exclusive, never-before-seen performance by Jennifer Hudson of 'Effie Sing My Song,' a feature-length documentary entitled 'Building the Dream' presented in nine chapters, behind-the-scenes featurettes on the costume design, editing and lighting of the film, cast member auditions and screen tests, previsualization sequences and more." Most but not all of the extras come formatted for HD.
Specs: Widescreen enhanced for 16:9 TVs (single disc also available full screen) with Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround, English 2.0 Surround and French 5.1 Surround with English and Spanish subtitles. Sorry, audio buffs, no DTS. It's a real shame to see a musical this rich come out without the superior audio format. Perhaps the HD formats will get to show off their superior sound abilities, an upgrade that by and large we're still waiting to experience. Guy can dream, right?"
3.5 Stars: Pleasing but a bit disappointing too.
Steven Hedge | Somewhere "East of Eden" | 08/21/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film belongs to Hudson and Murphy who are both far more talented than most ever expected.
I knew Jennifer Hudson could sing from her stint on American Ido, but I had no idea that was an actress too and I mean a top quality actress capable of pulling off an Academy Award in her very first film. It's my sincere hope that we will see much more of her in the future even if the roles don't include music. Hudson is simply an acting find and a visual delight to behold on the screen. She is a charming as she is talented.
Eddie Murphy's performance is as much high energy, flamboyant, and satrical as it is subtle, emotional and insightful. I was floored by his flawless performance in this film and found it a terrible shame that he followed this dynamic performance with the totally distasteful Norbit which was released just prior to the Academy Awards and in which some believe cost him the Oscar.
Members of the Academy are well-known for voting out an actor or actress based upon his or her personality as was the case with Madonna who gave an Oscar-caliber performance in Evita, but was shunned because she was . . . well . . . Madonna, and for voting out an actor or actress based upon a poor follow-up film released the same year and don't want to reward what they may consider a "fluke" performance as with Whoppie Goldberg in The Color Purple (thankfully she finally got her well-deserved Oscar for Ghost) years later.
I believe Murphy really blew his Oscar chances for this film because of "Norbit" and that isn't fair, but it was predictable based on past Academy voting tendencies. I generally believe in not holding things against a performer or a specific performance, but I have to admit that even I have moments of extreme bias, like anyone else, so I can understand how that happens. This may have been Murphy's only real good shot at an Oscar, but we can always hope that he will be given another juicy role like this one to strut his considerable talents.
Beyonce Knowles is no great actress, but she has terrific stage/screen presence that more than compensates for anything that she is lacking in genuine acting talent. To her credit, I actually had trouble recognizing her early in the film. I even asked my wife, "Where the hell is Beyonce? I thought she had a big role in this film." My wife then pointed her out and I was rather surprised at how well she disappeared into her role. However, the more I thought about it the more I thought she didn't just "disappear" in what started out as a supporting role, but was simply more out shined and out-acted by Jennifer Hudson. I don't mean that as an insult to Beyonce or her acting talent as she does have acting talent, but when surrounded by more genuine talent her limitations are clear no matter how beautiful she is, or how gifted she is as a singer, or how engaging she is generally as a stage performer.
Moving on to Jamie Foxx I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed with his performance in the film. I can't pinpoint the problem, but I just feel that he felt somewhat out of his league amongst these great female performers. His performance was simply below what he is capable of delivering, but that doesn't mean he was awful or miscast; he just wasn't at his best.
Now, one might question that with all this talent in the film why so many on here haven't given it 5 stars. I think the problem with this film is with the director. The film seems disjointed somehow. The editing isn't very smooth, transitions are weak, and the lack of focus on just who the "stars" are in the film creates an uneven film that works better in clips. In other words, the sum of the parts don't equal the whole. That may explain why so many "liked" the film, but didn't "love" it. It goes down smooth enough, but it never became what it could have become and that feeling is usually the fault of the director.
Overall, this is a fun and entertaining musical with some strong, dynamic performances, but still somewhat weak for this genre."