Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Number of discs: 2
DVD Release Date: May 1, 2007
Run Time: 130 minutes
One of the best of the current crop of modern musicals, “Dreamgirls” is the story of the rise and fall and rise again of a group of rhythm and blues soul singers. Mixing powerful, jazzy tunes with a familiar story arc, “Dreamgirls” is entertaining at least, toe-tapping at best. Adapted from the popular stage play of the same name, the routine, telegraphed story is saved by driving editing and complex characterizations, resulting in a film that is relentlessly entertaining.
Although the film is called “Dreamgirls,” this is an ensemble film, highlighted by Jamie Foxx, who has reformed himself from a television comedian into a world-class talent. He presents a complex manager who rides the crest of fame and is crushed along with the surf when it crashes. Jennifer Hudson became a media sensation for her role as Effie White, and the attention is certainly due; she is engaging with a voice that rattles windows. Beyonce Knowles, who was atrocious in the third “Austin Powers” film and “The Pink Panther” is pitch-perfect as a soul singer who is thrust into stardom because of her looks, more than her talent. The film is well-cast, up-to and including Mr. “Party All The Time” himself, Eddie Murphy as the lead singer in decline. Archetypal though they may be, the characters are recognizable, familiar, and comfortable.
Broadway musicals rarely make a successful translation to the screen, and “Dreamgirls” suffers many of the same problems, walking a line between attempting to portray a sense of realism, and then breaking out in song. A few of these are covered nicely by montages, but some are cringe-inducingly obvious, resulting in me being pulled out of the movie by the rolling of my eyes. Great soul songs are replaced with stock Broadway tripe. If you enjoy musical songs, you will no doubt be entertained, but the shift in tone was abrupt, considering the movie was reliant on naturalism and diagetic sound.
By-and-large the film is entertaining, if familiar. Good music and excellent acting results in a product that exceeds the sum of its parts. It is certainly worth a viewing.
Measuring about 2.20:1 across my display, the video quality looks nice, though detail is lost in darker scenes as a result of a black crush. The print is pristine, not a blemish to be seen. No pixels or artifacts ever show up, nor did I observe instances of edge enhancement.
As expected, this set is reliant on the quality of the audio. I am happy to report that it sounds phenomenal. The default Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation has a phenomenal range, punctuating the lows with rumbling bass and bright, clean highs. The dialogue is loud and brilliant, while the surround channels add an immersive quality.
The extra features are plentiful on this two-disc set, beginning with a dozen musical numbers taken out of the story, presented as music videos. Easy access is given to songs like “Effie,” “One Night Only,” and “Perfect World.” It’s nice to see the vocal talents of these performers showcased. The music video for Beyonce Knowles’ “Listen” is also recorded on the first disc, along with a promo for the film’s soundtrack.
The second disc houses the bulk of the extras, including a feature-length making-of documentary entitled “Building the Dream.” Every aspect of the production is chronicled, beginning with the Broadway musical and its transition to the screen. Director Bill Condon is extremely forthcoming on the film, going so far as to compare it to others of its ilk, including his own previous “Chicago.” I can’t say enough good things about this documentary; it even increased my appreciation for the film.
A few of the minutes, technical details that are skimmed over during the documentary are expanded in a series of brief (5-10 minute) featurettes. Editing, lighting, and costuming are covered in these segments.
More background material is presented in the audition tapes of stars Beyonce, Anika Noni Rose, and Fatima Robinson.
The set wraps up with pre-vis storyboards with a temp track and over a thousand production photos. This overwhelming conclusion summarizes the set simply: Complete.
I enjoyed “Dreamgirls” a lot more than I thought I would, considering its Broadway origins as a musical. Powerful performances and poignant social critiques mixed in with some excellent music results in an entertaining movie