Set amidst the R&B heyday of the '60s, "Dreamgirls" is a musical that owes as much of its harmonious heritage to the Memphis Stax records sound as it does to the Motor City where the story takes place. Director Bill Condon (screenwriter on "Chicago") captures the musical set pieces with vitality as our trio of soul singers The Dreamettes climb the ladder of success before their leader Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) is kicked to the curb by the group's manager Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx). By the time the ever-modulating songs start to expose their monotonous arrangements, it becomes clear that Effie's replacement Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles) is no match for Jennifer Hudson in the singing or charisma departments. Eddie Murphy gives the strongest performance of his career as James "Thunder" Early, an aging James Brown kind of performer unable to adjust to the musical changes occurring around him. However, it is newcomer Jennifer Hudson who owns the movie with her magnetic presence and go-tell-it-on-the-mountain voice.
Rated PG-13, 131 mins. (B-)
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