A review of “Dreamgirls” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language and adult situations

Run Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes

 

 

“Dreamgirls” is the ideal holiday tonic – light, fizzy and bubbling with musical pizzazz.

The story relies on the classic arc of stardom, featuring a fetching trio of Motor City ingénues – The Dreamettes -- who warble like songbirds in an effort to break into the biz.

The girls – Deena, Effie and Lorrell (Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose) are “discovered” by ruthless small-time promoter Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) and pressed into service as back-up singers for soul legend James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy).

Ultimately the group is spun off on their own, achieving cross-over pop success and all its trappings – jealousy, love triangles, betrayal and the painful pitfalls of superstardom.

Nothing newsworthy here but the ride is a blast due to some crack performances and the fantastic musical stylings of Beyonce, Murphy (who knew?) and breakout newcomer Hudson as the proud but self-destructive middle-child.

Beyonce leads the charge, letting her inner Sasha go a la Diana Ross. She looks great and sounds better, genuinely convincing as Foxx’s placid love interest cum meal-ticket. Murphy is a revelation – hotter than hot as a Little Richard-esque crooner with a dark edge and a nasty drug habit to match. His solo numbers are pure pop gold.

Best of show goes to feisty American Idol finalist Hudson, who smacks it down theatrically and nails the Broadway classic’s showstopper “And I am Telling You (I’m Not Going)” with goose-bumpy gusto. It’s a bravura performance that’s worthy of the buzz and awards hype.

As crowd pleasing as this stage-to-screen adaptation is – the tunes, the Motown-era duds, the funky vibe – it’s far from perfect, kicking off with a stale opening act that feels perilously conventional.  

But ultimately this splashy songfest makes it mark, a riot of color and sound that can’t help but delight and divert.