Went to see Dreamgirls on Christmas Day at Pacific Place. The theater was jam-packed for the 2PM show, it was hard to find a good seat. The audience an eclectic mix of gay men, black women, teens, hipsters, and families.
After all the hype, I was prepared for a let-down. The story is sort of wooden and predictable (more like something from the Biography channel). But the singing and the songs are wonderful. Eddie Murphy does a great job as James Thunder Early, a James Brown-Little Richard-Rick James-like singer and showman. Jamie Fox plays the Barry Gordy-like Genius-Promoter turned Machiavellian-Mogul mostly as a one-dimensional bad guy. Beyonce is just darn pretty. There are interesting bits about the history of the times: black music becoming mainstream, civil rights riots in the streets, the Vietnam War raging in the background (Murphy's character wants to do a message song about Vietnam, and all the "brothers" dying there, but it gets nixed, because "message doesn't sell, people want songs to make them happy;" a telling comment, perhaps, on our present time, and the Iraq war?).
Jennifer Hudson's performance as Effie ("I don't do backup") is the best thing about the movie. I thought she was perfect for the role, and that she totally nailed her character. In fact, it did not seem like she was playing a character at all, but was channeling something from deep inside, from her own life. I did not fear for the architectural integrity of the building when she hit her notes (as has been written in some reviews). But I definitely had tears in my eyes several times, her songs are just so incredibly moving. Effie's story is universal: it's about staying true to your voice; about the pain of being passed over, being betrayed/wronged; about falling down and coming back stronger. She is not so much a Diva as a Survivor.
Go see it. You'll feel saved.