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Dreamgirls

EntertainmentTheaterMoviesTelevisionMusical TheaterJamie FoxxEddie Murphy

"Dreamgirls," about a Supremes-like girl group in the 1960s and '70s, revives the movie musical. Though the genre witnessed a resurgence thanks to 2002's Oscar-winning "Chicago," more recent efforts have been duds ("The Phantom of the Opera," "The Producers"), presenting a celluloid-based song-and-dance void that this star-studded film amply fills.

The original Broadway production of "Dreamgirls" was nominated for 13 Tonys, won six and ran for nearly four years in the early 1980s, but the story was never developed for the big screen. With due respect to the original cast, be glad it took this long.

It's hard to imagine a better ensemble, including top billed stars Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles and Eddie Murphy. In particular, and at the risk of jumping on an already heavy bandwagon of hype, the assertive acting and powerhouse singing of former "American Idol" contestant Jennifer Hudson herald the film debut of a major new star. (Hollywood must now conjure more opportunities for her extraordinary talents.)

Murphy, already a star, still surprises as the James Brown-esque James "Thunder" Early. Remember Murphy's cheesy '80s hit "Party All the Time"? Well, forget it—his vocals have real depth here. The former "Beverly Hills Cop" also hits new acting heights in a performance that delicately balances crowd-pleasing stage antics with quieter, behind-the-scenes despair.

Really, the entire cast delivers: Foxx plays a financially-motivated slimeball to perfection; Knowles pulls off a satisfying arc from shy teen to superstar diva (and delivers a knockout solo on "Listen," a new song she helped write for the film); Danny Glover makes a fine elder statesman as an industry bigwig; and Tony nominee Anika Noni Rose develops a potent romantic chemistry with Murphy as the third Dream-girl.

Writer-director Bill Condon (who also wrote "Chicago" and directed "Kinsey") deserves the highest praise, however. Condon's creative conviction shines through on this ambitious project. The filmmaking confidently blends the rich tradition of film musicals with a contemporary style: The camera moves with utmost precision, and exemplary editing keeps the action moving without falling into MTV overkill.

Condon has clearly mastered the musical, considering that "Dreamgirls" is one of the best.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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