- Running time:
- 131 minutes
- Jamie Foxx -
- Curtis Taylor Jr.
- Beyoncé Knowles -
- Deena Jones
- Eddie Murphy -
- James `Thunder' Early
- Jennifer Hudson -
- Effie White
- Anika Noni Rose -
- Lorrell Robinson
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. She's superb in the central role of Effie White, the Dreams' full-figured lead singer who is pushed aside in favor of the more marketable Deena Jones (Knowles). Hollywood must now conjure more opportunities for Husdon's 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.