Review Date: January 19, 2003
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer: Bill Condon
Producers: Marty Richards, Harvey Weinstein
Based on the very popular musical of the same name, CHICAGO, the motion picture, follows the travails of one spunky girl who just wants to sing and dance. Unfortunately for her, it's tough to break into the biz, but in a strange twist of fate, she soon gains major notoriety after committing a murder. While in prison, her seedy lawyer helps her win the "public's affection", while the more popular song and dance woman (who also happens to be in jail for murder at the time...don't ask), begins to fade away. That's CHICAGO, beeyatch! Lots of songs and dances ensue.
Its rousing musical numbers, fun energy, decent story and playful acting definitely make this an entertaining picture overall, but certainly not the crowning achievement that everyone seems to be making it out to be. I would pass that baton over to Baz Luhrmann and MOULIN ROUGE, a more engrossing, original and festive film, which not only opened the door for all future musicals, but also attached a handful of emotion into its plot and actually had us "caring" about its characters. Mind you, musicals are also an acquired taste. I've never hidden the fact that I am not a fan of musicals per se (watching people sing and dance doesn't do it for me, unless they're nude and I've got a six-pack on my lap-- and I'm not talking about beer!! ), but strangely enough, I've enjoyed LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST and MOULIN ROUGE over the past two years, so I guess my opinion is changing a little, at least, when the musicals are done creatively. CHICAGO is much more of a straightforward musical. Its characters aren't necessarily sympathetic (in fact, most of them are just plain ol' nasty), and there's rarely any real exposition which isn't followed by a major musical interlude, but I still enjoyed most of it, especially some of its jazzier, raunchier, crunchier numbers. Thankfully, all of the actors were also quite good, especially the supporting characters, like John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah and her monster jugs. She was actually the biggest surprise for me. Very entertaining. Zellweger was also very fun to watch (and unlike the film's trailer seems to indicate, much more of the "star" of this film than that cute brunette), while Zeta-Jones was gorgeous and did her thing just right. I didn't think Dick Gere belonged in this movie when he came out for his first "song and dance", but I will say that he grew on me somewhat (especially after he put on his typical "Richard Gere" suit which he sports in all his movies).
There were, on the other hand, definitely too many dance numbers for my taste. I would have cut at least 5-6 of them right out of there, even though the few memorable ones were infectiously peppy and the production values throughout the entire film were stupendous. The final number was particularly fantastic! (I also liked "Razzle Dazzle" (loved the suit!), "All That Jazz", "They Both Reached for the Gun" and "Cell Block Tango"). The directing is also to be commended, especially the way everything connected together, with each scene moving so slightly into the next, with some actually overlapping, yet still making sense. The story was okay, and that's probably one of the film's greater hinges, in that it felt a little dated and not necessarily as engaging as it could have been. The media is fickle and can be manipulated...blah-blah-blah. But overall, the film had a solid pace, plenty of catchy tunes, two charming ladies in the lead, plenty of eye-candy and enough shimmying to entertain most theatergoers. I wasn't as entertained because the idea of watching songs and dances for almost two hours doesn't particularly curl my toes (and as you might've guessed, I have not, and have no intention of seeing the actual musical play upon which this is based), but that's more of a personal reason. The bottom line is that if you enjoy musicals, you will most definitely enjoy this high-spirited, extremely well-choreographed and well directed motion picture. If you don't like musicals so much, you might enjoy some of it, simply because it is somewhat catchy and fun, but you might get bored with the story, the selfish characters and the over-abundance of...well, songs and dances! PS: I also loved Catherine Zeta-Jones' thigh-high socks, but maybe that's just my own perverted thing going on.
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian