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And I Am Telling You ... Jennifer Hudson Is Phenomenal in Dreamgirls

  • Jan 16, 2007
  • by
Pros: Jennifer Hudson! Beyonce, Foxx's acting, bring-down-the-house numbers, costumes

Cons: pacing, Eddie Murphy's character, some duller songs

The Bottom Line: All I want for Christmas is Jennifer Hudson's voice.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

When Jennifer Hudson was voted off of American Idol during the 2004 season, my mother and I were so devastated that we vowed to never watch the show again. Of course, the AI addiction is too strong to beat cold turkey, so we tuned in again the following week, but we remained faithful to our fallen diva, hoping that she would one day receive the recognition she deserved.

To our glee, Jennifer Hudson’s moment of glory has finally arrived with the role of a lifetime, Effie in Dreamgirls, a character made famous in the Broadway version by Jennifer Holliday. Ms. Hudson has large shoes to fill, but the 25-year-old singer with a voice that will make your hair stand on end is causing a stir in Hollywood. She has received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Effie, and the audience at the theater where I saw the film yesterday was more enthusiastic than any other cinema crowd I’ve ever been a part of.

According to newspaper reviews, audiences are staying for the credits just to cheer when Jennifer’s name comes up. In Boston, the sold-out crowd burst into cheers twice during the film’s signature number, “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going).” There are not enough adjectives in the world to describe Jennifer’s performance of this song. She sings it with a perfect combination of gusto and pain. I don’t know how she pulls off sassy and wounded simultaneously, but somehow she does. You just have to see it.

Jennifer Hudson’s voice is so soulful and beautiful that it gives me goose bumps every time she opens her mouth. I felt like I was on the verge of tears for the entire second half of the film.

But enough about Jennifer (for now)…

Dreamgirls was a successful Broadway musical during the 1980s about a 1960s girl-group, loosely based on The Supremes. Bill Condon (Kinsey) did a wonderful job adapting Dreamgirls for the screen as the costumes, dance moves, and musical arrangements appeal to a younger crowd, but the film retains a theatrical quality. It is mainly a non-integrated musical (the characters rarely burst into song to advance the plot), but the songs that the characters sing are used to express their innermost feelings.

The first song that the Dreams sing – at a talent competition in their hometown of Detroit – is the spunky “Move.” Much like Beyonce's current hit, “Irreplaceable,” it’s a strong declaration of independence. Naturally, the best singer in the group, Effie White (Hudson), sings lead. She shakes her full hips and belts out the tunes. The Dreams are young and innocent but full of pride. When they are approached by manager Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx) with an offer to sing back-up for James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy), Effie declares “We don’t do back up.” Curtis changes Effie’s mind through flattery, and the girls hit the road.

Soon enough, the money-obsessed Curtis realizes that the Dreams can be successful as headliners … but only if Deena (Beyonce Knowles) sings lead. Anyone can see that Effie has the more powerful voice, but Deena (like Diana Ross on whom she’s based) is thinner, prettier, and more marketable. Curtis believes that the Dreams can cross over to the pop (white) market with Deena as the front woman.

Effie is the most obvious victim of Curtis’s ambition, but her brother C.C. (Keith Robinson, who is nearly as adorable as his on-screen sister), a talented composer, also suffers as Curtis takes all the soul out of the C.C.’s songs to try to make them hits. Similarly, James Early isn’t allowed to be himself and begins to turn to drugs to ease his pain.

The main flaw in Dreamgirls is the pacing. I felt that Eddie Murphy’s James Early character is on screen too much. Whenever the film focuses on Early or Curtis, it feels like Condon is just filling time between Deena and Effie’s numbers. Although Murphy can actually sing*, I didn’t enjoy his songs very much, and I just kept wishing that the Dreams (especially Effie) would come back. The third Dream, Lorell (Anika Noni Rose) is adorable and gets a few humorous lines, but she doesn’t get to sing much.

Foxx and Murphy give admirable performances, but Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce ultimately carry this movie. Beyonce really gets to strut her stuff during the second half of the film. She wears dozens of dazzling outfits and makeup styles and is mesmerizingly beautiful. Vocally, she certainly holds her own, as well. I got chills during Deena’s signature song, “Listen,” and her rendition of “One Night Only” is impressive, too.

If you’re looking to hear the Motown sound on screen, you won’t find it in Dreamgirls. The songs are Broadway-ized interpretations of '60s and '70s R&B.

Watching Jennifer Hudson dazzle on the big screen was the best Christmas present ever. I can’t wait to watch it again.

* For a real laugh, check out Eddie Murphy’s comedic R&B song from the '80s, “Boogie in Your Butt.”

** Epinions won't let me put the accent at the end of Beyonce's name. Sorry, Ms. Knowles.

Update (12/31): I saw Dreamgirls again last night. It's even better the second time.

Update (1/16): Jennifer Hudson won a well-deserved Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Effie White. Congrats, Jennifer!


Video Occasion: Good for Groups
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older

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More Dreamgirls reviews
Quick Tip by . March 03, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Jennifer Hudson is truly amazing.  She steals the movie.  Beyonce put in a good performance, but she looks like the back-up through out the whole movie.  Eddie Murphy also puts in a fine performance.  Jamie Fox and the rest of the cast provide a strong supporting background for the movie.
review by . December 30, 2008
posted in Music Matters
If they were alive today I am quite sure that Rogers and Hammerstein, Loerner and Lowe and all the others who brought us the great American musicals of the 1940's and 1950's would stand up and cheer for "Dreamgirls".  For this is a film steeped in the tradition of those fabulous M-G-M musicals of days gone by.  Executive Producer Patricia Whitcher pushed all of the right buttons in assembling an incredibly talented ensemble that makes "Dreamgirls" …
review by . November 01, 2008
After you watch this well cast film   You'll see it's only right   That J-Hud's getting so much praise   For playing Effie White     Right from the start she steals the show   A wonderful debut   And as I reached the half way mark   I said "Beyoncé who?"     Effie, Deena and Lorrell,   (The Dreamettes) have a dream   Curtis Taylor hears them sing   And they become a team …
review by . June 03, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
For all the importance of music within African-American history, musicals used to be a whites-only genre in Hollywood. Then came Queen Latifah's role in Chicago in 2002, followed by the hit Ray in 2005. But whereas Latifah had only a supporting role in Chicago, and Ray was more a drama with great music, this movie is truly a musical in every sense of the word, with all the major roles played by African-Americans. The story is of three women in Detroit who grow up as childhood friends and become …
review by . May 02, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
"Dreamgirls"    A Dream of a Film    Amos Lassen and Cinema Pride    What can I say about "Dreamgirls" that has not already been said? It is not just a movie, it's an experience. From the moment that the movie starts, you are dazzled by performances with passion, wonderful staging, amazing direction and the costumes...what can I say? It is an emotional spectacle even though the storyline is not new and the clichés are well...clichés but …
review by . December 31, 2006
Pros: Outstanding performance by Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson.     Cons: Nothng.     The Bottom Line: Can you hear the sound of my clapping, the joyous call of my delighted whistle?     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. There are few movies I have seen this year—and I have seen quite a few—that can measure the emotional fulfillment of Dreamgirls. The movie is after all about music, the …
review by . December 28, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Murphy     Cons: Songs can drag on a bit to long.     The Bottom Line: For Murphy alone, this film is a must see.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. The rise of Motown records is one of the music industries greatest tales. Berry Gordy Jr. in 1959 established the record label that not only made stars of numerous talents such as Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Jackson 5, but helped African …
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The 1982 Tony-Award-winning musical DREAMGIRLS shimmies its way to the big screen with a stellar cast and undeniable sheen. Set in 1960s Detroit, DREAMGIRLS follows the commercial and cultural struggles of the R&B recording industry, through the rise of the Dreamettes (later shortened to just the Dreams) from backup singers to headlining international superstars. The trio--Deena (Beyonci Knowles), Effie (Jennifer Hudson), and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose)--soon discover the harsh reality behind the glamour of fame and fortune, as the group's controlling and shady manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), uses them to help build his musical empire and capture his dream of crossing over from R&B to the pop charts. He sacrifices Effie's immense talent as lead singer for Deena's stunning, more mainstream look to sell the sound, pushing marketable appeal over musical artisanship--and compromising the ambitions of his protigis. <br> <br> Since its Broadway debut, DREAMGIRLS has been widely rumored to be inspire...
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Director: Bill Condon
Genre: Music, Musical
Release Date: December 15, 2006
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: Paramount Home Entertainment (May 01, 2007)
Runtime: 2hr 10min1 sec
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