A movie in the musical mode. If you're a fan of Broadway, this is made for
you. If you like this cast, you'll be delighted by a whole other side of
their talents. If you like a high paced, high kicking good time with singing
and dancing, don't stay away.
It's a story about murder and how in 1920's Chicago a pretty girl with a
little celebrity can get away with it. In this case, it's cherubic, semi
innocent, naive Roxie Hart (Renee Zelwegger), a dance doll trying to manage a stage booking for
her hoofing talents. Her career isn't going places, though, and neither is
her gloomy marriage to nerdy Amos Hart (John C. Reilly), so when a
good looking scuz-ball opportunist says he's going to put in a good word for
her with the producers, she falls for it, and for him. But after a good roll
in the hay the jerk can't leave her fast enough. When she realizes how he's
done nothing but use her, she pops him with her husband's pistol. Uh oh.
Leggy fellow dancer-chanteuse Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) has a similar
story with career difficulties and killer instincts. The two land in jail
and are put into further competition for the most successful defense lawyer
in all Chicago, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) who opts to defend them both. But
who gets his particular attention at any time is the one who commands the
best headlines, for that is his legal stock in trade. He'll get any woman
off so long as the public adores and sympathizes with her.
To him, his clients are just dummies and this is manifested in my favorite
song in the musical, an almost incomparable "Press Conference Rag", a routine
that tells it all about lawyer and client in Flynn's book. If you ever
thought there was anything restrained about Zelwegger and/or Gere,
This is magnificent stuff, wildly and integrally joining story progession
with the staged numbers that symbiotically transcends it into inspired
entertainment. See them dance; see the rhythmic intercutting. See the
fabulous lighting and the complex choreographic staging. See these actors
like you never saw them before.
Renee Zelwegger, if she's anything, is underrated for her performance. While
her early song on the piano recalls Michelle Pfeiffer's far better routine of
similar staging in "The Fabulous Baker Boys", she is totally saucy and cool
everywhere else, making use of talents that haven't even been hinted at in
her dramatic roles.
Gere is equally outstanding with any hint of stiffness or reserve completely
out the window and off the stage. He's as exuberant in his enjoyment
as anyone on screen. If anything, he's gleeful. Ex-dancer Zeta-Jones shows
us what those legs can do when she's not being the bitchy but beautiful
competitor. And could you ever imagine the dour, dependable John C. Reilly
strutting his stuff across the stage in syncopated song? His revelation of
stage talent is alone worth the price of a ticket.
In it all, we perceive the spirit and choreographic genius of the late Bob
Fosse who couldn't stand or dance a dull moment. This is a joyful piece of
work. Verve and excitement is in every frame, put together lovingly by
director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon. Award level lighting and
cinematography is by Dion Beebe and a similar accomplishment on the editing
board is by martin Walsh. All credits come together for a dynamic, if not
a dynamite piece of collaboration magic. It's theatre all the way.
You only need to put aside the moral message -- not a pretty one -- and you
can escape into its numerous and lavish charms.
~~ Jules Brenner