Starring: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Danny Glover
Director: Bill Condon
Studio: Paramount 12356
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, 1080p HD
Audio: English/French/Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish
Extras: On Disc 1 with feature: 12 extended musical numbers (HD); Music video, “Listen” by Beyoncé, Soundtrack promo
On Disc 2: Full length documentary “Building the Dream” (HD); Original auditions and screen tests, Previsualization sequences, Additional featurettes: “Dream Logic,” “Dressing the Dreams” and more
Length: 130 minutes
This movie musical has received lots of attention. The first film role for Jennifer Hudson of American Idol fame, and it won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress at the recent Academy Awards. Many were miffed that Eddie Murphy didn’t get one for Best Supporting Actor for the same – he’s excellent in his role. It was also a Golden Globe winner for Best Picture of the Year.
The story is a fictionalized treatment of Motown soul successes such as The Supremes and the Eddie Murphy character is a sort of James Brown/Little Richard combo. There are major changes to the real story of Motown and soul music. After all Motown was not founded by black artists as the Detroit record label in this film. The music has also been radically changed from the Motown inspirations; nothing the Dreamgirls sing sounds anything like the Holland-Dozier-Holland tunes I remember from the Supremes. The effort of their manager to make them more profitable and commercial leans toward a disco sort of sound and even the more soul-oriented music of the original stage musical has been re-cast by a couple of arrangers for the movie.
The unexpected breaking-into-song at many points in the film often seems stilted and unnatural, but a scene when the performers and Foxx as their manager are all arguing about how they’re being presented works quite well. Beyoncé is gorgeous and Jennifer Hudson can really belt them out. The conclusion of the film, with the final performance of the girl group, seems rather odd.
The staging is suitably spectacular, as is the lighting and colors. There is much very dramatic lighting with strong black areas in the image, and it all reproduces fabulously in HD via my Pioneer Blu-ray player and Samsung DLP display. The audio doesn’t make much use of the surround sound and often seems limited to the frontal soundstage, but the various vocalists come thru with great presence and impact. I wasn’t drawn into the film enough to spend much time with the second disc of the extras, although I did view all the extended music numbers on the first disc. There are plenty of extras to keep fans busy for some time.
– John Sunier