VOD film review: Dreamgirls
Ivan Radford | On 15, Jan 2017
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, Beyonce Knowles
Watch Dreamgirls online in the UK: Netflix UK / Sky Cinema / NOW TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The microphone descends. The curtains go up. A drumbeat starts. Based on the Broadway musical and directed by Chicago’s Bill Condon, you can tell from the very beginning that Dreamgirls has all that jazz and some to spare.
Inspired by The Supremes, the film’s lights go up on The Dreamettes, as they enter the world of showbiz. But, unbeknownst to them, suave manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) has plans for the three singers, plans that go beyond being the backers for Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early (Eddie Murphy). He wants to make them stars. His one condition? Lose Effie. The fat one.
Jennifer Hudson (former American Idol finalist and now coach on ITV’s The Voice UK) plays the lead role of Effie, cast aside for someone more attractive. She doesn’t let the same thing happen in real life: Hudson shows that not only can she sing, she can act too, reacting to deception and manipulation in the same way as anyone else: by singing. Simultaneously, Eddie Murphy bursts into song – and, at one point, out of his clothes – as Jimmy Early, a lightning bolt of charisma, filling up the screen with his every move. In a turn worthy of his Oscar nomination, Eddie effortlessly brings his character to life. Boy, this duo can sing.
Jamie Foxx, on the other hand, doesn’t put in any effort. His Curtis Taylor Jr. is serviceable and nothing more, a resentable figure who never really engages with anyone. Thankfully, he’s the only blip in an otherwise impressive ensemble, as Beyoncé blends into the background brilliantly.
And, at the helm of it all, stands Condon, whose excellent writing and direction keeps the quality level high. He nails the tone of the stage show right on the head, balancing theatrics and realism beautifully. With increasingly dazzling dresses, and gradually growing wigs, Dreamgirls confidently captures the look of the time, not to mention the sound of the three little Aretha Franklin triplets. The colour leaps off the screen at you, covering your constantly tapping toes in vibrant, sassy paint. Compared to the snappy Chicago, the runtime is a tad long and the songs may not all be quite as memorable as Hudson’s And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going, but Dreamgirls is, simply, a whole lot of fun. From the infectious soundtrack to the sumptuous visuals, the film repeatedly forces you to follow Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye’s Green Cross Code to the letter: Stop. Look. Listen.
Dreamgirls is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of an £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription.