Chicago
Starring:
Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly
Directed By:
Rob Marshall
Grade
A-

Okay... let me get one thing out of the way - I have never been a big fan of musicals. That alone may be reason number one why it took me this long to finally sit down and watch Chicago, a film "re-imagining" of the Broadway classic. The story revolves around two murderous wives and their lawyer. As the film opens up, dancer/singer Velma Kelley (Zeta-Jones) has murdered her husband and sister and is hauled off to jail. Not long after, Roxie Hart (Zellweger), who wishes to live the life that Kelley lived up on the stage, murders her own lover and finds herself in the same women's prison. Once there, she must keep the attention of the press and her ringleader lawyer (Gere) so that she can be found not guilty and escape a sure death penalty.

While you might think that the way the story is told for Chicago would be pretty straightforward, with lots of moments where the people break out in song, but it does prove to throw a nice curve to make the musical numbers seem actually logical (if musical interludes could seem logical...). Basically, Roxie has an overactive imagination, which causes her to impart musical and showman-like qualities to even the most simple of activities of her life. It's all a delusion that makes her life all the more interesting. During many of the numbers, non-song and dance aspects of the film will continue on, further proving this point.

There are plenty of great performances all around and the direction of the movie is top-notch. The main cast members all do well in holding up their parts in the film. But, where the cast and direction really excels is in the dance/song numbers, which just have so much life and power to them. The songs are catchy and memorable. One of the best aspects of the songs is that they always have a bit of humor to them, making each and everyone worthy of at least one or two chuckles. With the emotional rollercoaster the movie takes you on, the pacing of the songs is well done. And, everyone in the cast gets their own time in the limelight to show off what they can do. (I've always liked John C. Reilly - it was nice to see him get a number all his own.)

And, I must say that I'm impressed by the physical execution of the dance numbers. Many of these are physical and moving in their own right. This is especially impressive because most of the cast has had little prior experience before the film. To go with this are some nicely done timepiece sets and costumes which helps to capture the era. Every little aspect, even down to the bright and colorful lighting really give a strong presence to the film.

So, will you like Chicago, despite all the critical acclaim? If you ever liked musicals, probably so. Purists who liked the original Chicago may not like the "re-imagining" as much, but most everyone else is sure to get a blast out of this. Chicago is a pretty fun romp with enough going on to keep just about anyone's attention. It's the kind of film that even non-musical fans can enjoy.

- - Vane

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