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Bill Condon
Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Jennifer Hudson
Writing Credits:
Bill Condon

A trio of female soul singers cross over to the pop charts in the early 1960s and face their own personal struggles along the way.

Box Office:
$70 million.
Opening Weekend
$378,950 on 3 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 130 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/1/07

• 12 Expanded/Alternate Scenes
• Music Video
• “Building the Dream” Featurettes
• “Dream Logic: Film Editing” Featurette
• “Dressing the Dreams: Costume Design” Featurette
• “Center Stage: Theatrical Lighting” Featurette
• Auditions and Screen Tests
• Previsualization Sequences
• Image Gallery


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Dreamgirls [Blu-Ray] (2006)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 18, 2017)

With 2006’s Dreamgirls, the movie musical showed life for the first time since 2002’s smash hit Chicago. While the $103 million take of Dreamgirls didn’t compete with the $172 million earned by Chicago, it certainly looked pretty good.

This seems especially true compared with then-contemporary flops like Rent, The Producers and The Phantom of the Opera. Since many critics liked Dreamgirls as well, it looked like the flick could emulate Chicago’s Oscar success.

Alas, that wasn’t to be. Yes, Dreamgirls’ eight nominations led the 2006 pack, but three of those were for songs, and it won only two awards: Jennifer Hudson took home the Best Supporting Actress trophy, and the movie also got Best Achievement in Sound Mixing. Dreamgirls failed to get a nod in the Best Picture category and generally found disappointment on Oscar night.

Although Dreamgirls may not have lived up to all expectations, I think the end result offers a generally winning experience. Based semi-loosely on the real-life story of the Supremes, Dreamgirls takes us to Detroit in the early 1960s to meet an amateur singing group called the Dreamettes.

Big-voiced Effie White (Hudson) takes the lead, while Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) handle the backup vocals. Local car dealer Curtis Taylor (Jamie Foxx) sees them in a talent contest and thinks they possess the talent to break through to the big time.

In the meantime, they need to rise through the ranks, and they get their professional start as backing singers for R&B singer James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). This takes them on the road and gets them started in the business.

Eventually Curtis renames the group “The Dreams” and launches them as an act in their own right. In this transition, he decides to make Deena the focus of the trio, for she may lack Effie’s vocal power but she offers a more appealing presence as a front woman. The movie follows the professional and personal ups and downs experienced by the women and those close to them.

Am I the only one who thinks Dreamgirls would work better if it didn’t attempt to tell the tale of the Supremes? On one hand, that makes the story a little more provocative, but I think it causes more distractions than it needs.

As I watched the flick, I constantly tried to connect the movie’s fictionalized events with real-life occurrences, and that made it tough to concentrate on the plot and characters. If the picture went with a more generalized look at a Motown-style group and wasn’t so obviously based on the Supremes, I think it’d be a more involving effort.

Once we get past those distractions, though, Dreamgirls presents an effective and entertaining flick. I’ve often referred to my general dislike of musicals, but this one manages to avoid many of the usual pitfalls.

One positive comes from the movie’s use of its musical numbers, as it only occasionally presents the contrived notion in which characters sing their dialogue. Most of the time Dreamgirls presents its tunes via live or studio performances by the characters.

The film doesn’t just take us to the stage in an ordinary way, though, as it integrates the songs with montages and other action. I very much like the fact that Dreamgirls doesn’t often stop the action to make the participants sing their thoughts, so the tunes flow more smoothly and work well.

This factor allows Dreamgirls to move pretty well most of the time. The first half goes especially well, as it speeds ahead quickly and wraps us up in the world of the Dreams. We get involved in the characters and the settings, and we enjoy the ride we take.

Once Effie becomes a problem and leaves the group, however, the movie loses steam. Much of that comes from the absence of tension, as the natural sense of conflict – both romantic and professional – that occurs with Effie in the group creates much of the film’s drama. With her out of the loop, the movie droops and tends to meander toward its conclusion.

The other issue comes from the lackluster nature of the Deena character. She never develops into much of a personality, a factor that relates both to the role as written and as performed by Knowles.

Some of this may be intentional, and one could possibly interpret it as a slap at Diana Ross; perhaps Dreamgirls intends to demonstrate that she always should have stayed in the background and never have become the star. I wouldn’t agree with that thesis, as no one enjoys such a long, successful career without very clear mass appeal and talent. I don’t think the movie’s portrait of Deena/Diana as something of a cipher is an accurate one.

Perhaps I shouldn’t blame the script and I should pin the criticism on Knowles. She offers a lovely presence and doesn’t embarrass herself in the role, but she lacks much heft in the part.

Knowles does fine during the first half, as the flick concentrates more on Effie and Curtis during that span, but once Deena becomes more of the focus, Knowles doesn’t carry matters well. Her lackluster performance means that the movie drags in its third act.

Dreamgirls also loses points due to a distant turn from Foxx. Cast in the Berry Gordy role, Foxx never quite connects with the part. He conducts himself as aloof and imperious without any heart or real personality.

As with Deena, perhaps this was intentional and meant as a commentary on Gordy himself, but it doesn’t work very well for the movie. Foxx simply doesn’t seem to involve himself in the role, so he often looks a bit distracted, like he’s mentally working on another film.

As I mentioned already, Hudson won an Oscar as Effie. While I don’t know if I believe she truly deserved it, I won’t clearly say that she didn’t, either. I didn’t feel tremendously impressed by her acting chops, as I think she seems a little forced at times.

Nonetheless, Hudson inhabits the role with reasonable effectiveness and has the right voice for it. She does what she needs to do for this pivotal part.

Murphy didn’t win an Oscar as Early, but he deserved one. Many will blame the release of the execrable Norbit smack in the middle of Oscar voting season for Murphy’s loss, and that may be the case.

If so, that’s a shame, as the voters shouldn’t have allowed one role to affect their judgment of another. Murphy proves absolutely sensational as Early in arguably the best work he’s committed to film.

During the movie’s first act, we can overlook Murphy’s gifts, as he basically comes across as “Eddie being Eddie”. Those portions cast him fully in James Brown impersonation mode. Actually, that’s a little unfair, as Murphy’s early shows more depth than simple mimicry, but those elements of the part don’t force him to demonstrate much beyond what we’ve seen from him in comedic roles.

However, as the movie progresses, Murphy brings out more from the part. Early experiences professional and personal ups and downs that Murphy conveys with real dimensionality. He doesn’t stick to stock mannerisms.

Instead, Murphy turns Early into a rich, full character who offers the most interesting and involving part of the flick. While I think Alan Arkin is a fine actor, there’s no way his one-dimensional shtick as the drug-using grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine merited an Oscar victory over Murphy’s work here.

Otherwise, Dreamgirls probably got the Oscar consideration it deserved. Entertaining but flawed, it keeps us interested for much of its running time, though it goes too long and loses us somewhat during the third act. This is a better than average movie musical but not one that I’d consider to be a classic.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus A

Dreamgirls appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, this became a quality presentation.

Sharpness worked well, as the movie consistently exhibited solid delineation. However, light edge haloes cropped up at times, and those created minor distractions. No issues with jagged edges or moiré effects materialized, and source flaws remained absent through this clean presentation.

The palette of Dreamgirls favored warm oranges, browns and similar tones. These complimented the dark-skinned actors and provided a lush setting for the film, so the colors seemed full and dynamic.

Blacks were deep and dense, while shadows appeared clear and well-defined. Only the mild edge haloes knocked it down a level.

I also felt pleased with the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dreamgirls. Given the movie’s nature, it should come as no surprise that music dominated the affair.

The many, many songs displayed strong stereo imaging and opened up well to the rears. The whole spectrum delivered the music in an involving, immersive manner.

Effects played a smaller role, but they seemed well placed and appropriate. Crowd noise helped put us in the live settings, and other elements worked fine as well. This wasn’t a terribly ambitious soundscape, but it succeeded for what it needed to do.

Audio quality seemed fine. Of course, music remained the most aspect of the track, and the mix rendered these elements well. The songs and score were warm and dynamic throughout the movie, with clean highs and deep lows.

Speech was natural and concise, while effects appeared accurate and clean. All in all, I felt pleased by this satisfying soundtrack, albeit one that lost points due to the lack of a lossless option.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the movie’s DVD version? Audio was identical – literally, as the Blu-ray lacked a lossless option. Though the soundtrack worked fine, the absence of lossless material disappointed.

Visuals showed superior resolution and vivacity. Even with the presence of the edge haloes, the Blu-ray offered a clear step up in picture quslity.

The Blu-ray repeats the extras from the DVD, and on Disc One, we start with 12 Expanded and Alternate Scenes. Viewed together via the “Play All” option, these fill a total of 36 minutes, nine seconds.

Music comes to the forefront in these clips, as they all revolve around performance numbers. We get some without cut-aways to other elements, and many just run longer than in the final flick.

All are entertaining to see, especially the ones that only appear in incidental form in the movie such as the TV performance of “I’m Somebody”. Nothing here expands the story or dramatic arcs, but it’s fun to see the clips anyway.

We also find a music video for “Listen” by Beyonce Knowles. The three-minute, 49-second clip alternates shots from the movie with simple lip-synch images of Knowles. It’s neither a memorable song nor a creative video, though Knowles looks exceedingly hot in her non-movie shots.

Over on Disc Two, we start with a series of featurettes listed under Building the Dream. Taken together, these run a total of one hour, 54 minutes and 46 seconds – and take them together you should, as they’re meant to be viewed as one long documentary.

“Dream” offers remarks from Knowles, director Bill Condon, producer Laurence Mark, composer Henry Krieger, casting director Debra Zane, executive producer Patricia Whitcher, production designer John Myhre, choreographer Fatima Robinson, co-choreographer Aakomon “AJ” Jones, choreographer’s assistant Eboni Nichols, director of photography Tobias Schliessler, associate choreographer Joey Pizzi, music supervisors Matt Sullivan and Randy Spendlove, music producers Damon Thomas and Harvey Mason Jr., first AD Richard Graves, costume designer Sharen Davis, theatrical lighting designers Peggy Eisenhauer and Jules Fisher, department head hair stylist Camille Friend, department head makeup Tym Shutchai Buacharern, visual effects supervisor Gray Marshall, and actors Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Loretta Devine, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson, Danny Glover, Sharon Leal, and Hinton Battle.

“Dream” looks at the stage production and its adaptation for the screen, casting, and pre-production subjects like set design. From there we move through choreography, songs, performances and recordings, and the actual shoot. We also learn about locations, cinematography, lighting and camerawork, costumes, hair and makeup, and the movie’s premiere.

When I received this set, I bemoaned the lack of an audio commentary. After I watched the excellent “Dream”, I didn’t really miss the commentary anymore.

“Dream” digs into so many issues in such a full, rich manner that it covers virtually all the appropriate bases. We get a tremendous amount of good information, and a surfeit of fine behind the scenes elements help make the program even better. This is a terrific look at the production that really entertains as it informs.

Next we find Dream Logic: Film Editing, a four-minute, eight-second featurette. It includes comments from Condon, editor Virginia Katz, and 1st assistant editor Ian Slater.

They discuss the challenges involved with chopping down the reams of film shot for Dreamgirls into a coherent whole. We also learn the rationale behind many of their editorial choices in this tight, informative piece.

For the eight-minute, 21-second featurette Dressing the Dreams: Costume Design, we hear from Davis as she discusses her influences and style choices. This adds up to another insightful program that gives us a good look at the decisions made for the flick.

Another featurette looks at Center Stage: Theatrical Lighting. It goes for eight minutes, 44 seconds as it features Condon, Eisenhauer and Fisher.

They chat about the techniques they used for the movie’s various lighting challenges. We get a mix of useful details, especially about the ways the lights reflected what would have worked in the movie’s era.

Under Auditions and Screen Tests, we locate three clips. This area houses “Dreamgirls – Beyonce Knowles Screen Test” (2:24), “Ain’t No Party – Anika Noni Rose Audition” (2:09), and “Steppin’ to the Bad Side – Fatima Robinson Choreography Audition” (6:20).

Parts of these appear already in the long “Dream” documentary, but it’s great to see them on their own here. I especially like the one with Knowles, as we see her bring out her internal Diana Ross.

Seven Previsualization Sequences come next. We get “The Talent Show” (9:35), “Fake Your Way to the Top” (6:57), “Cadillac Car” (3:01), “Steppin’ to the Bad Side” (8:24), “I Want You Baby” (2:45), “Heavy” (1:46) and “Hard to Say Goodbye” (4:29).

These mix filmed storyboards, some musical test footage, and audio to approximate the flow of the scenes. They offer a cool way to see the movie’s planning processes.

Finally, we find an Image Gallery. This splits into four areas: “Storyboards” (988 across 10 subdomains), “Costume Designs” (78), “Production Designs” (15), and “Art Department Archive” (31).

All four areas offer some great material. The storyboards are genuinely exhaustive – and exhausting, as flicking through them cramped my hand! I think the art department material is the most fun, though, as we get good looks at the album covers and posters created for the flick.

Dreamgirls provides an inconsistent but often entertaining piece of work. Though it sags as it goes, it provides a better than average movie musical and displays enough strengths to make it worthwhile. The Blu-ray offers largely good picture and audio as well as a compelling roster of supplements. I feel pleased with this release.

To rate this film visit the DVD Review of DREAMGIRLS

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main