|||Songs from 'Dreamgirls' pack punch|
By Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Times
By Kenneth Turan
"Dreamgirls" is alive with the sound of music. It's a love song two times over, a tribute to a vibrant period of American popular music as well as to a style of filmmaking we don't see enough of, the big-budget Hollywood musical.
As directed by Bill Condon, who also wrote the adaptation of the multiple Tony Award-winning play, "Dreamgirls" tells a familiar story with conviction and pizzazz.
Based loosely on the career of Diana Ross and the Supremes, "Dreamgirls" is a classic backstage story, a look at how a humble girl group called the Dreamettes made its way to the pinnacles of musical success and cultural influence. And — get out those handkerchiefs — of the emotional price that had to be paid along the way.
Although "Dreamgirls" is well-served by charismatic stars Jamie Foxx, as pop-music Svengali Curtis Taylor Jr., and Beyoncé Knowles as Deena Jones, much of the film's appeal comes from the surprisingly compelling work of costars Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson.
Murphy gives the most fully rounded performance of his career as James "Thunder" Early, the Thunder Man himself, a soul singer of the James Brown/Jackie Wilson variety who gives the Dreamettes their first big break when he and his manager Marty (Danny Glover) hire them as his back-up group.
Using his matchless comic gifts and fox-in-the-henhouse charm, Murphy eats this part alive, making more than anyone else could of this creature of complete self-confidence and seduction.
It wouldn't mean much to say that Dreamette Effie White is the role of Hudson's career because this is her film debut after time spent on "American Idol." You never would know it, because she gives a fearless performance as the Dreamette who pays a price for having a mind of her own. And when she rips into the musical's Tom Eyen/Henry Krieger signature song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," her singing tears the screen apart.
"Dreamgirls" begins in Detroit, with the Dreamettes showing up at a local theater to take part in a talent show. Besides getting a gig touring with the Thunder Man, they also acquire a manager in the form of Mr. Taylor, a Cadillac dealer who has designs on not only entering but also changing the music business, on getting "our music to a wider audience with our money."
Just as "Dreamgirls" needs someone of Knowles' allure and skill to make Deena credible, it also needs Foxx's ability to project magnetism even when he is being pulled back and withholding.
"Dreamgirls" is the entire musical package, a triumph of old-school on-screen glamour, and we wouldn't want it any other way.