I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Dreamgirls (2006)

A trio of singing hopefuls -- Deena (Beyonce Knowles), Effie (Jennifer Hudson) and Lorell (Anika Noni Rose) -- lose a Detroit talent contest, but gain a manager in ambitious car salesman Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx). Their first professional gig is singing backup to soul singer James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy). The singer is managed by Marty (Danny Glover). Early has a wife (Dawnn Lewis, who was a regular on TV's "A Different World"), but he starts a long affair with Lorell. Taylor takes a liking to Effie.

When the Dreamettes get a chance to headline on their own, Taylor changes their name to the Dreams. He also decides that Deena should be lead singer instead of Effie, to make the group more palatable to white audiences. Taylor promises zaftig, outspoken, hot-tempered Effie that it will be temporary, but the change is anything but. Tensions rise, and Effie shows up for rehearsal one day to find that she has been replaced by Michelle (Sharon Leal). Everyone turns in her, including her songwriting brother C.C. (Keith Robinson), but they find out soon enough that the cost of fame is very dear.

Jennifer Hudson was a contestant on the TV competition series "American Idol", where judge Simon Cowell mistakenly dismissed her talent. She steals the movie with her powerhouse vocals, which are evident during the song, "I'm Telling You I'm Not Going". She had big shoes to fill -- Jennifer Holiday did the showstopping tune in the Broadway version -- and she did well. That's not to say that Beyonce half-steps. The former lead of the group Destiny's Child does a nice acting job, and her big number is "Listen", a song written specificially for the film. I always knew Eddie Murphy could do more than be funny, and he channels Wilson Pickett and James Brown nicely for his character. Danny Glover does not have a lot of screen time, but he plays the old school values of his character very well.

The film moves along at fast pace, using racism in the entertainment industry, the turbulence of the 1960's, and the disco era of the 1970's as backdrops. Other familiar faces in the film include: Jameel White, who was the annoying Steve Urkel on the ABC sitcom "Family Matters"; Eddie Mekka, who was Carmine on "Laverne and Shirley"; comedian Bobby Slayton; Hinton Battle, who originated the role of the Scarecrow in the Broadway musical, The Wiz; John Lithgow of "Third Rock From The Sun" and Loretta Devine, who played the Lorell character in the Broadway version of this musical.

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