|Based on the 1975 musical (and the 1990's revival), the 2002 version of Chicago doesn't lack on razzle-dazzle and goes all out. Which turns out to be a good thing.|
The story, which takes place in the roaring 20's, stars Renče Zellweger is Roxie Hart. She's trying to be the next big star, but can't seem to make it, despite her boyfriend Fred Casely (Dominic West) talking to lots of people. When it turns out that Fred actually doesn't know anyone and was just using her for sex and leaves her, she can't stand it and shoots her. Despite tries from her husband Amos (John C. Reilly) to keep her out of jail, she still goes. There she sees Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), once-big, but now in jail for shooting her sister and her cheating husband/boyfriend. They then compete for Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), a high-priced attorney who has never lost a case. And, they compete for the front page.
Casting such large stars as the main roles was a risky move, considering that they never did a famous musical (at least, not to my knowledge). They did all of their own singing and dancing, which looked real. No real special effects here. The music didn't seem to interrupt anything and fit right in. I wasn't shocked that they took a nice scene and made razzmatazz out of it. It flowed along nicely; when it went too long without a musical scene I was left waiting for one. That's pretty good directing (by Rob Marshall).
Alas, like all musicals, Chicago drags a bit in the second act, not having the steady pace of the fun of the first one. It seemed to go too leisurely and the tap-dancing scene, from Gere, seemed unnecessary. I really liked how Marshall interspliced two or even three scenes seamlessly with quick cuts. It added to the experience of a dancing set of the twenties. The songs were bouncy, but I was surprised that my feet weren't tapping along like I wanted them to be. All of them are great, but I only really remember `All That Jazz' (because it was played over the credits). This is a movie whose soundtrack I must buy.
Zellweger surprised me (with her astonishingly bubbly voice sometimes), but the standout was Zeta-Jones. She, being a veteran of Broadway, really wanted to do this project and seemed to have so much fun doing this, probably what she likes to do best. I felt glad that she was the best part of the movie musical revival. Gere (who I hated in The Mothman Prophecies) did a nice role, though he was a lot better singing and dancing than he was acting. Everyone's singing and dancing surprised me. The dancing, by none other than Bob Fosse, was vibrant and well choreographed. The costuming and themeing was perfect and brought out the idea and the culture of the twenties. No expense was uselessly wasted. Plus, as an added bonus, the fast paced cinematography was enjoyable to watch, but may have too many `Blair Witch Project side effects'.
Queen Latifah played `Momma', a warden-type at the prison. She was probably the second best performer in the show. Other people that popped up include Christine Baranski as a radio announcer, Taye Diggs as a band leader, and Lucy Liu (in a somewhat wasted role) as a new prisoner. That leads me to my next point-although movies like this don't use much time in developing a great plot, the secondary characters leave something to be admired. During the slinky song about six inmates and how they killed their husbands/boyfriends, only two came back later. That was a great song, but we don't really care about them (which we do to the main characters). There also was some humor in it.
Chicago has humor, kinky dancing, great songs, and tremendous actors playing tremendous characters that can appeal to people of every like.
My rating: 8/10
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and dialogue, violence and thematic elements.