A year and a half after "Moulin Rouge" breathed new life into the musical genre, the Broadway hit "Chicago" tears of the screen with a riveting and entertaining rendition.
Renee Zellweger leads an all-star cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, Lucy Liu, Mya and Taye Diggs into a world of media manipulation and a dreamy life of song, dance and murder. Zellweger is Roxie Hart, an ambitious woman that would do anything to achieve her dream of singing on stage, including cheating on her husband. When she learns that her lover has no intentions of putting a good word in for her, she kills him in a jealous rage and is sent to trial. But, she's a woman in the 1920's, and with a little help from the best lawyer in town (Gere), she may just be able to get off with a few lies and so forth. Of course, another woman on death row, Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) doesn't want the spotlight taken off of her...
"Chicago" is a wonderful film with great acting, great filmwork, and best of all, some very entertaining songs that rival "Moulin Rouge." Obviously, "Chicago" is the real thing; it's a Broadway musical, so it's credibility has already been established. Nevertheless, a good play does not necessarily translate into a good film, especially one like this that is just a little satirical.
Director Rob Marshall should see Oscar nods for the way he handled the play. The musical sections are handled as if dream sequences, but blended so well with the normal story - and allowed such great transitions - that he avoids any cheesiness that some musicals suffer from. From beginning to end, "Chicago" is pure entertainment.
Kudos go to every actor. This is Richard Gere's best movie in years, and he does a fabulous job. His flamboyant and loud character is such a step away from his normal fare that it is utterly refreshing, and Catherine Zeta-Jones burns up the screen with the time she is given, proving once again that given the right role, she is forced to be reckoned with. Renee Zellweger is good, too, but not fabulous, and, of course, like usual, John C. Reilly, that guy's that's been in tons of films ("The Good Girl" and "The Hours" as of late, both of which are movies where his wives are less than appreciative of him), does another brilliant job. When the time is right, he will get an Oscar nomination.
There are a few slow parts and the earlier songs are better than the later ones, but regardless, "Chicago" is one of the best, if not best movie of 2002. It's not without a few minor flaws, denying it of the sacred A+ (of which no 2002 film has yet to retain, with only a few contenders left to see), but it is a solid, Oscar-worthy film. Musical and non-musical fans alike will find "Chicago" a great movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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