Pub date December 12, 2006
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

Do you know where you’re going to — have you ever seen Mahogany? What am I showing you? Well, for a start, that the facsimile of the Motown story presented by Dreamgirls is phony with a capital P. By the time Berry Gordy and Diana Ross reached their particular shared impasse on the road from Motown to Hollywood fantasyland, she was almost fatally eager to fold a twiglike body into the two-dimensional shallowness of fashion. In contrast, in Dreamgirls the ridiculously sweet and naive Ross type played by Beyoncé Knowles is still wholly unaware that she’s shoving others out of the spotlight and yet also healthy, poised, and ready to share supposedly deep insights about her life. As for Jamie Foxx’s Gordy clone, the story soft-sells the producer and label head’s bad reputation — and misunderstands his genius. Most songs here may be Broadway ready, but in terms of melodicism and rhythm, they wouldn’t pass muster as Supremes B-sides.
Thank god, then, for Jennifer Hudson. The surprise of Dreamgirls isn’t that her Candi Staton–rich and deep singing steals the movie; everyone knows going in that she’s going to tell them — yell at them! — that she’s not going. But she does more than that, making good on the “you’re gonna love me” part of her show-stopping lyric with an overall performance that has more nuance and naturalism than those of the experienced actors around her. (Johnny Ray Huston)
Opens Fri/15
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