Thursday, December 20, 2012

DVD Review: Dreamgirls

I don't know why it took me so long to finally watch Dreamgirls. Possibly because I'm not really the biggest fan of musicals. I don't hate them. I wouldn't even say I dislike them, they're just not typically my thing.

But what is my thing is girl groups from the 50's and 60's. So I really wanted to see this movie when they first started advertising it, but somewhere along the line when I realized what the plot was, I just got a little disenchanted and set it aside until it made it to the top of my Netflix queue last week. Even then, I let it sit on my desk for a week after it came in. I wanted to hear the music and see the awesome vintage outfits, but I just wasn't sold on the story.

Really, that's pretty much the only problem I can find with Dreamgirls, and it's something that you have to really understand the history to get why you can't let that get in your way. If you look to this as only a film, as only a musical, the story is a bit cliche and the characters are well worn stereotypes. The music is amazing, but the arc everyone goes through is predictable.

But that's the problem, is that you can't look at this as just a movie. It's practically a historical film, but with songs. The reason we know these characters and this story so well is because we already know it really happened. Maybe not exactly like this, maybe Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) is a much more sleezy character than Brrry Gordy ever was. But at the end of the day, the interpersonal relationships are ones that you see play out in the music business year after year after year.

So how do you settle that as a viewer? The costumes, the acting, the songs, they're all amazing. Granted I wasn't alive during the time period the movie shows, but it seems very accurate and represents the era(s) well. A musical is above all about the music, and not only are the songs themselves top notch but the singing and performances are as well.

But there isn't a single new revelation in the movie. It's very, very good but it isn't fresh or new. Plus many people have pointed out that because it's not at all shy about the fact that it's a fictionalization of the history of Motown Records that the film actually could be considered insulting to it's source material.

So where do you go with that as a viewer? My opinion, you buy the soundtrack and get a hold of as many of the songs as you can, and then read up on the history of Motown on your own. Unless you really love one of the actors, or musicals in general. In which case, there are much worse ways to spend a couple hours.