Late for their stint in a local talent show, The Dreamettes - Deena Jones (Beyonce Knowles), Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) and lead singer Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) - show up in their cheap wigs and homemade dresses, rehearsing songs and steps by Effie's brother, C.C. (Keith Robinson), with hopes that talent and sheer desire will break them out of the only life that seems availabel to them. They're young. They're beautiful. They're just what Curtis is looking for. All they have to do is trust him.
James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy) is a pioneer of the new Detroit sound, spellbinding audiences all along the "Chitlin' Circuit" with his electrifying blend of soul and rock 'n' roll. Curtis finesses The Dreamettes a gig singing backup for Early, and suddenly, for all of them, the gulf between what they want, and what they can have draws closer for the first time.
Curtis launches the girls as a solo act, rechristening them The Dreams, knowing in his gut that success lies not with the soulful voice of Effie, but with the demure beauty and malleable style of Deena - despite their history.. and Curtis' promises. Deena is ready to step into the spotlight, even as Effie fades away.
As a new musical age dawns Curtis' driving ambition pushes this one-time family to the forefornt of an industry in the throes of music revolution. But when the lights come up and the curtains part, they hardly recognise who they've become. Their dreams are finally there for the taking, but at a price that may be too heavy for their hearts to bear.
I've never been a big fan of musical based movies (indeed the closest I come to 'loving' a musical is The Blues Brothers or Wayne's World - I know, you need not comment!) and I certainly didn't enjoy Chicago or Moulan Rouge that much at all. Still, I didn't dislike Dreamgirls. Yes, there was still too much singing for my liking, but the storyline is interesting and quite emotional at times, while the musical numbers are well produced. Having originated as a stage play this is what we would expect.
Without a doubt though the star of this show is Jennifer Hudson as Effie White. Her performance of 'And I'm Telling You I'm not Going' is simply astounding; quite possibly the best 'emotional' singing in a movie for a number of years. Dreamgirls was her first big break after being voted out of American Idol (and indeed she beat out American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino for the role in this movie!) and I hope to see much more of her in future. This is a very solid movie that fans of the stage play, or movie musicals in general, will enjoy far more then me.
There were a couple of scenes where the filmmakers have used 'stock' footage - that is, footage from events that either are, or certainly look like real events from the day. These are grainy shakey-cam moments, but one can not fault the Blu-Ray discs due to the original decisions of the filmmakers.
Again Paramount impresses with stellar presentation of their deleted scenes. Disc One contains these 12 scenes, most of which are extended versions of musical numbers. Each is presented with the same quality and polish as the final movie - that is 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and a High-Def image with a bitrate of over 20Mbps. Most of these scenes are pretty good and while there is no commentary it's quite clear that the majority were cut to keep the movies' pace up.
'Listen' Music Video (3:49):
Also on disc one is the music video 'Listen' by Beyonce Knowles. Sadly this video clip is only presented in Standard Definition with 2 Channel 192kbps audio, but it's a nice inclusion of the signature 'commercial' song from the movie.
Building the Dream (114:58/HD):
When you see a documentary on a DVD release you generally expect a 5-20 minute feature which goes into some detail about the production. When you sit down to watch Building the Dream make sure you have almost 2 hours to spare because that's how long this runs for! It's not fluff either. This is one of the most well put together documentaries which covers almost every aspect of the production from converting the stage musical to a movie, getting together all the actors, and then filming the movie. If it's all too much the documentary is split up into 9 chapters to make viewing in smaller doses possible. As well as the HD video the documentary includes 192kbps Dolby Digital 2 channel audio.
Dream Logic: Film Editing Featurette (4:08/HD):
A short piece which looks at editing the movie, and the massive amounts of footage that came out from the shoot - about a million feet of film, or 3 weeks of solid footage!
Dressing the Dreams: Costume Design (8:22/HD):
Sharon Davis, costume designer, discusses the design of the numerous outfits used throughout the movie, including the changing styles from era to era.
Center Stage: Theatrical Lighting (8:44/HD):
Original Audions and Screen Tests (10:55/HD):
Three screen tests which show more of the audition process for the movie. Only Beyonce's screentest is in HD and in 16:9, the other two are presented in SD and 4:3 all with 196kbps 2 channel sound.
Pre visualization sequences (35:45):
Seven pre-vis sequences of songs which changes between concept art and rehersals with the final audio mix overlayed. It's an impressive way to see what the movie looks like before release. With a runtime of over 35 minutes it's an solid inclusion.
Review By: Dave Warner