Chicago (DVD)

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Chicago (DVD)

This Hollywood adaptation of the classic Broadway musical sparkles with glamour and reverberates with the energy of good, old-fashioned song and dance...

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Review of "Chicago (DVD)"

published 06/04/2003 | afy9mab
Member since : 11/07/2000
Reviews : 1482
Members who trust : 144
About me :
Well, I guess we've had a good run...Sorry to see Ciao! go.
Pro Strong cast, well-directed
Cons Not one for musical-haters
very helpful
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"Infamy, infamy, they've all got it infamy"

Roxi Hart is a wannabe vaudeville star who achieves fame when she kills her lying lover in a fit of pique. Velma Kelly is an established star who achieves infamy after killing her adulterous husband and sister. The two women both end up on Murderers’ Row, where they have to vie for the attention of the showman lawyer Billy Fynn, if they want any chance of escaping the hangman’s noose. And this being "Cicago" it’s all a literal song and dance.

"Chicago" is the first true movie musical we’ve seen on our screens for quite some time. Okay, there was "Moulin Rouge", but that used songs to illustrate a point rather than to progress the narrative as "Chicago" does. And it’s about as big and brash a spectacle as you could hope to see, with more songs than spoken dialogue.

I’ve never been a big fan of Renée Zellweger. I don’t know if it’s the alternately squeaky then husky voice or the disproportionately large head, but she normally annoys the hell out of me. Thankfully, her sub-Marilyn Monroe schtick suits the character of Roxie down to the ground. After all, she’s a fame-hungry gold-digger with a penchant for peroxide. But to her credit, she proves she can dance and belt out a tune when required and she looks good in the clothes of the period and even makes Catherine Zeta-Jones look a bit podgy on occasion.

Ms Zeta-Jones vamps it up as the venal Velma Kelly, obviously enjoying the chance to lay it on thick and bitch and snipe at everyone in sight. She plays the diva to perfection - all husky voice and smoky eyes and an off the cuff putdown for everyone. Okay, so her Amercian accent still isn’t perfect, but you can’t have everything. She too is very good in all of the song and dance numbers, but then, you’d expect that from someone who has a background in West End musicals. However, you get the impression that she’d more suited to belting out a ballad than the jazz numbers she performs.

Richard Gere is something of a dark horse when it comes to his musical abilities. We all know he can act, but most people have no idea he was in a touring production of "Grease" back in the seventies. Here he plays his usual smug lawyer-type (see "Pretty Woman" and "Red Square" for other examples). But here he gets to have a lot more fun with the character. I don’t think he has the greatest voice in the world, but he has got the style of the 20s down pat. It’s amazing that he can sound like a mono recording of Al Jolson in one song and like a cabaret singer in the next. And he performs admirably in an extraordinarily well choreographed tap dance routine, which is all the more remarkable for the fact that he had to learn to tap for the film.

As usual, many of the supporting cast do not get the recognition they deserve. Hip-hop doyenne Queen Latifah is excellently cast as prison warden Mama Morton and her opening song ("When You’re Good to Mama) is one of the best in the entire film. But she proves that she can really act. Hopefully, this won’t be her only opportunity to do so.

John C Reilly excels as Roxie’s put-upon husband Amos. His hangdog expression speaks more than a thousand words and sums up the loving, gullible fool, as does his rendition of "Mister Cellophane", dressed as a clown. And who would have thought he’d have such an impressive singing voice? It’s a shame we don’t get to hear it more often.

The delectable Taye Diggs also appears as the compere of the musical sections. The cast is rounded out by a strong chorus, including r’n’b star Mya and dozens of talented singers and dancers.

Overall, the acting belies "Chicago’s" stage origins. There is no attempt at character development, but there rarely is in a musical. There is a definite lack of subtlety, which suits the overblown style of the whole shebang and you are never under the impression that what you’re watching is real. It takes a little while to get used to the big gestures, stagy performances and the occasionally stilted dialogue, but it is worth persevering.

The setting of the film switches back and forth between the naturalistic world that the characters inhabit (all grey stone and murky lighting) and the vaudeville world of Roxie’s imagination (neon lights and sequins). It is a clever way to link all of the scenes together and overcomes one of the main hurdles of bringing a stage show to the screen. Plus, the contrast renders the musical sequences even more fantastic.

The costumes are fantastic and encapsulate the decadence of the age. The women are outfitted in gorgeous embroidered silks and satins and their tiny stage costumes are generally covered in the most intricate beading. The men wear beautifully tailored suits and aren’t averse to the odd sequin or two during the musical numbers. The hairstyles and make-up raise the glamour stakes even higher.

The musical numbers are very tightly choreographed. Unsurprisingly, they were created by musical legend Bob Fosse, who brought us "Cabaret" back in the seventies. They are fluid and sexy, much like the jazz-styled songs they accompany and far more expressive than the Busby Berkley numbers you may remember from the old Fred and Ginger movies. They look punishing for the actors involved, though.

Many of the songs have become modern classics and also add to the glam atmosphere of the film. Particular highlights for me included the aforementioned "When You’re Good to Mama" and "Mister Cellophane" and "Give ‘Em the Old Razzle Dazzle".

If you like a bit of glamour and yearn for an era where gin and jazz were the biggest temptations a girl could face, you’ll love this. On the other hand, if you hate traditional musicals, you’re going to loathe it. But if you’re a young chap wanting to impress your new girlfriend, it’s the ideal date movie. Remember; you either love musicals or you learn to appreciate them!

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Comments on this review

  • eve6kicksass published 20/11/2010
    Excellent review of another overrated film....but man did you nail it about Gere, he was a dark horse and i was shocked at how good he was. Chris x
  • Zoe published 11/12/2003
    Again I hated this one! Oh well it's a really informative review and you're probably right in the last paragraph as I do hate musicals anyway. The whole thing just seemed so poorly constructed with too much hyperactive editing. It felt like someone had filmed a stage show (badly) plus it was just really boring as I didn't vaguely care about the characters and there wasn't enough plot to get away with so little character development. Oh well that's just me!! But it's a great review!
  • SueMagee published 06/04/2003
    I enjoyed that - you did it rather well! Thanks. Sue.
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Product Information : Chicago (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

This Hollywood adaptation of the classic Broadway musical sparkles with glamour and reverberates with the energy of good, old-fashioned song and dance. As the film leaps into its first riveting act, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), one half of the famous number she performs with her sister, arrives at the night club late, dishevelled, and with blood on her hands. Nonetheless, she goes onstage unhindered and wows the crowd with her shimmying rendition of 'All That Jazz'. Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) a young blonde who dreams of someday being famous like Velma, watches from the audience with eyes full of envy. Later, as the cops pick up Velma for the murder of her sister, sending her fame to all-time heights as she becomes a tabloid sensation, Roxie also commits a crime of passion--shooting a lover who falsely promised to secure her cabaret debut. The girls wind up together in jail, where Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), a compassionate guard, is their only hope of redemption; and Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) is the lawyer who can get them out. There, through wonderfully familiar songs like 'Razzle Dazzle', 'Cell-Block Tango', and 'Cellophane Man' Roxie and Velma tell their story of competing for bad-girl celebrity. Director Rob Marshall presents a loveable CHICAGO that shares all the grit and grime of the Bob Fosse Broadway original with phenomenal performances by this grouping of Hollywood stars. The dizzying camerawork and dazzling sets make an easy transition from stage to film.

Release Details

DVD Region: DVD

Release date: 12/09/2005, 04/08/2003

No of Discs: 2, 1

Catalogue No: BUA 0013401, BED 888819

Barcode: 8717418056377, 5017188888196

Voice: Danny Elfman

Choreographer: Bob Fosse

Music: Fred Ebb


Author: Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb

Director of Photography: Dion Beebe

Screenwriter: Bill Condon

Producer: Martin Richards

Composer: Danny Elfman, Fred Ebb


Main Language: English

Professional Reviews

Review: "...Fresh and daring....Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly are the surprise standouts..." (Box Office, p.59, 01/03/2003)<br><br>"...Zeta-Jones, all legs and growls, has found her calling card..." (Film Comment, p.73, 01/01/2003)<br><br>"...It's Zeta-Jones who keeps you watching from start to finish....She refuses to let you go....If musicals are dreams, she is their greatest dreamer..." (Los Angeles Times, p.C8, 27/12/2002)<br><br>"...[The actors] deliver sizzling performances....This tawdry, hard-as-nails carnival of ghouls generates plenty of fireworks..." (Movieline, p.62, 01/02/2003)<br><br>"...It's the raw expenditure of energy and the canniness of the staging that should pull audiences in and keep them rooted..." (New York Times, p.E1, 27/12/2002)<br><br>"...Zellweger wins our hearts. That's what makes her dangerous. Just like the movie....Dynamite..." (Rolling Stone, p.76, 23/01/2003)<br><br>"...[Jones] makes nightclub singer Velma a droll fishnet virtuoso..." (Sight and Sound, p.41-2, 01/02/2003)<br><br>"...CHICAGO shows how much the element of surprise is missing from today's movies....It's part of the basic Zeta-Jones bio that she can really sing, and, wow, can she..." (USA Today, p.7D, 27/12/2002)<br><br>

Technical Information

Special Features: Audio Commentary, Deleted Scene, Behind The Scenes Footage

Dubbing Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 English<br>Dolby Digital 2.0 English

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0

Award Information

BAFTA: Best Supporting Actress 2002 (Catherine Zeta Jones)

OSCAR: Best Actress In A Supporting Role 2002 (Catherine Zeta Jones)


Listed on Ciao since: 06/11/2005