Movie musicals are not an easy sell. There are inherent differences between the stage and the screen that can make the singing just plain awkward. Thankfully for the filmmakers of "Dreamgirls," a bulk of the singing takes place on a stage. This makes the movie much more palatable for mainstream audiences than many of the movie musicals of recent years ("Rent", "The Producers").
"Dreamgirls" is derived from the story of the Supremes, although the musical does not acknowledge this. In the musical and the movie, a group called The Dreams (Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Broadway star Anika Noni Rose) start out backing James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy). Their manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), eventually pulls them away from Early to star in their own act. The problems arise when he chooses Deena Jones (Knowles) to sing lead over Effie White (Hudson).
There isn't a weak performance in the film. Beyonce Knowles plays the part of Deena with elegance and class. Eddie Murphy puts forth the best performance of his career. He is electrifying and hilarious as the fading star, but is also able to show a certain vulnerability as a person.
However, the true star of the show is former "American Idol" contestant Jennifer Hudson. Hudson beat out more than 700 others for the role of Effie, including Fantasia Barrino (whom she lost to on the third season of American Idol). Her performance of "And I Am Telling You (I'm Not Going)" stops the movie cold, in a good way. It is evident that she has a bright future in film ahead of her.
Bill Condon, who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning movie musical "Chicago", not only adapted "Dreamgirls" for the big screen, but directed. His vision, along with some of the most stunning cinematography of the year (provided by Tobias Schliessler), give the film the feel and look of a Broadway show.
The main problem (and quite possibly the only problem) is that the movie falls flat dramatically. You can identify the points that are supposed to be shocking and dramatic, but there's no feeling behind it. For an ordinary movie, this is enough to bring the entire movie down, but it's different for this one, perhaps because it is a musical. The film is funny, touching, and downright entertaining.
Joshua Jezioro is a senior at Frontier Central High School.
Review: 3 1/2 stars (Out of 4)