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Dreamgirls (DVD)

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The last Eddie Murphy vehicle that benched his trademark funny man bag in favour of something both valiant and disparate was the poorly-received “Vampire in Brooklyn” (1995) – Wes Craven’s hugely unfunny special effects sprog with Murphy playing a womanising bloodsucker – and well, that sucked. Though “Dreamgirls” isn’t so much a Murphy vehicle as it is a carpool, its an even greater stake than before, but like flipping a coin, gambles like this only have two possible outcomes: and in this case, its tails – as in, tails will definitely be on seats to see this amazing performance.


>Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Jennifer Hudson, John Lithgow

The last Eddie Murphy vehicle that benched his trademark funny man bag in favour of something both valiant and disparate was the poorly-received “Vampire in Brooklyn” (1995) – Wes Craven’s hugely unfunny special effects sprog with Murphy playing a womanising bloodsucker – and well, that sucked. Though “Dreamgirls” isn’t so much a Murphy vehicle as it is a carpool, its an even greater stake than before, but like flipping a coin, gambles like this only have two possible outcomes: and in this case, its tails – as in, tails will definitely be on seats to see this amazing performance.

In what is truly his most impressive and most worthwhile role to date, Murphy twists and shouts through his role as a James Brown-esque soul singer – who, funnily enough, claims he did what he did before Brown ever came on the scene – whose struggle to make the transition out of the clubs and onto the record chats ultimately expunges whatever dignity he had left. As James “Thunder” Early, Murphy belts out some marvellous songs, gets some gargantuan laughs, and even, heaven forbid, has you feeling for the poor bugger.

A true testament to how good Murphy is in the role of soul singer Early – though, in many respects, he is just rehashing his James Brown shtick from Saturday Night Live and his singing preacher from Coming to America; still, it works – is the fact that his co-stars are as solid as frozen butter.

There isn’t one performance in “Dreamgirls” that stinks of line reading or languidness. And yet, you’ll remember Murphy most vividly.

Let’s not forget the terrific ensemble though: Beyonce Knowles sings her sweet little heart out as our Diana Ross-type, Danny Glover makes sure you remember him for his role as a veteran manager, Jamie Foxx packs a punch as the green-eyed producer, and most notably, newcomer Jennifer Hudson (an American Idol contestant!) is a marvel to behold as a masked talent that suffers for her sisters.

Hudson, along with Murphy, deserves more than just applause for her performance in the film – she deserves statues, and several of them. Both the larger-than-life actress/singer and the former 80s comedy icon give what are likely the best turns you’ll see this year.

Just realised. Haven’t even talked about the film yet.

Now, why is that?

Well, there’s a reason for that and it’s because it’s that kind of movie – it’s all about the performances, much more so than the story. In fact, there isn’t much of a story here at all – at least nothing you haven’t seen before.

Loosely based on the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Bill Condon (“Chicago”, “Kinsey”) written/directed “Dreamgirls” is set in the turbulent early 1960s to mid-70s, and follows the rise of a trio of women – Effie, Deena and Lorrell – who have formed a promising girl band. With their former car salesman turned manager making all their career decisions and pushing them as far as they can be pushed, the ‘Dreamettes’ eventually give in and just go with it: Even if that means losing friends in doing so, and putting duds before dignity.

Without it’s all-star cast, lavish production values and marvellous songs (not one of them a stinker – which is rare in a contemporary musical), “Dreamgirls” could’ve easily been the next movie-of-the-week on Hallmark, but it isn’t – sure, it could’ve done with a punchier and more eventful script, but when every other planet is aligned, you can excuse one for not shining as brightly. And better still, you’ll fall in love with Eddie Murphy all over again.

Better than any concert you attended this year.

Extras on the DVD – which, by the way, really packs a punch in terms of how great it looks and sounds! – include numerous featurettes (the best one is the 2-hour ‘Building the Dream’ making-of) on the making of the movie; extended and alternate scenes; auditions and screentests; pre-visualization stuff, and your typical plug for the soundtrack. Fans of the tunes will be glad to know that you can choose to sit through each entire song, rather than simply see an edited version of it (the way it appears in the film), too.

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris

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