Jan 3, 2007

Dreamgirls: A musical with completely unremarkable music

And yet it was enjoyable. Jennifer Hudson was outstanding; it's worth going to see the movie just to be able to say you saw a star being born. Eddie Murphy stole every scene he was in. Jamie Foxx was terrific and Beyoncé was gorgeous. The costumes were great and you really felt you were being taken back to Detroit at the beginning of the 1960s.

And yet, the music. AO Scott sums up my position pretty throroughly.
But the problem with “Dreamgirls” — and it is not a small one — lies in those songs, which are not just musically and lyrically pedestrian, but historically and idiomatically disastrous. This is a musical, after all, about music, about an especially vibrant and mutable strain of rhythm and blues that proclaimed itself, boastfully but not inaccurately, to be “the sound of young America.”


The great Motown songwriters — Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, the trio of geniuses known to posterity as Holland-Dozier-Holland — turned out great pop songs by the dozen, cutting bolts of blues, gospel and rock ’n’ roll into clean, trim, shiny garments. It is vain to imagine that Mr. Krieger and Mr. Eyen, who died in 1991, could replicate the Motown sound in all its variety, but as it is, the film barely acknowledges its existence.

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