Chicago (2002): ***
Directed by Rob Marshall
You know, musicals really aren't my choice genre when it comes time to go see a movie. In general they just don't appeal to me, especially Broadway-style musicals. So I actually liked Chicago better than I thought I would, but not nearly as much as the world in general seems to think I should have.
There were some things I really liked about the movie. The main was the fact that the way they did the musical numbers in this movie was by basically making the main character, Renee Zelwegger's (or however the f@%k you spell her name) Roxy Hart, hallucinate them. For one musical number, a character is talking to Roxy when she gets this really spacy look on her face and starts zoning out, staring at a wall. We see her POV, and the wall dissolves and a musical number happens behind it. Very funny. Most of the rest of them are in her imagination as well. It kind of gives her character a different dimension than if musical numbers were actually happening around her. It makes you feel how she sees her whole life in terms of show business.
The music is good enough. Better and less pretensious than most Broadway Musical songs. Of course, basing it on 20s & 30s jazz probably helped immensely.
As for the cast, I don't know what happened with Catherine Zeta Jones. Usually CZJ is pretty bordering on gorgeous in the movies she's in, but in this one she was just scary. Every time she was on screen with her bug eyes and bad haircut and huge mouth I just wanted to cover my face. Queen Latifah, on the other hand, is big and confident and bold, but at the same time has this great softness to her performance where you just want to call her Mama and lay your head on her knee so she can pat it and tell you everythin's gonna be okay. Plus she has the goddam sexiest musical number in the film, but I'm a bit biased due to the fact that I've always thought Queen Latifah was unbelievably sexy. John C. Reilly gives YET AGAIN another fine performance as a kind of a loser.
My favorite performance came from Richard Gere, believe it or not (I certainly couldn't). His Billy Flynn is an absolute scoundrel who knows it and loves it and is having the time of his life. He's fooling everybody but himself, and he's so comfortable with what he is that he just exudes this infectious giddiness that makes you want to cheer him on and watch the fireworks. Plus his singing voice is awesome. It's too goddam funny. Whenever he talks he has a pretty normal Richard Gere voice, but during the musical numbers he suddenly busts out with a voice that sounds just like W.C. Fields at his prime. Fantastic.
Renee Zelwegger is perfecty fine as Roxy. There is nothing really wrong at all with her performance. She sings and dances just fine. She's absolutely insane and evil and completely unsympathetic. And that brings me to probably the main problem I had with the movie. The two main characters (Velma and Roxy) are complete and total bitches, but not likeable ones. I personally wanted them both to hang. I couldn't have cared less about them. Something went wrong somehow in how they came across. I know that Chicago is a story of unbridled cynicism, but it's also supposed to be a good time. But I didn't have a good time with the pure evil of the two leads. I had a good time whenever Billy Flynn was around. Somehow he came across as a likeable scoundrel whereas the two lead ladies came across as the scum of the earth. It made the film kind of hard to enjoy at times.
-Christopher Grant Harris
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