Film review by: Witney Seibold
Unfortunately for the majority of contemporary film-going audiences, musicals have become taboo. No longer can we have a situation where people spontaneously burst into song and dance. Occasionally there will be an oddball musical that slips through (Woody Allen’s underrated “Everyone Says I Love You,” Takashi Miike’s epic mindscrew “Happiness of the Katakuris”), but for the most part, recent musicals have kept us at arm’s length with their aggressive use of style (see “Moulin Rogue” for iaprime example). Rob Marshall’s new production of “Chicago” goes the right way in taking a popular Broadway hit and adapting it, but it still only almost makes it.
“Chicago,” based on the stage hit by Fosse, Kander & Ebb, follows the exploits of Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) following the murdering of her lover. She goes to prison, and learns that she can become a celebrity with the help of finagling lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere). Her rapid rise to anti-heroism of course miffs the last media darling Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and it becomes a match of wits, a play of the media, and a joyous celebration of corruption complete with most of the snazzy hits from the stage production. There are also dynamite appearances by Queen Latifah as the brassy prison matron, and John C. Reilly as the frumpy half-invisible husband, Amos.
This film has a lot of energy, and all of the people working on it seemed to be having a good time, even though the style was a touch aggressive. Problems, however, arise with the casting. While Zellweger is cute as a button, and can kind of pull off both naïve and sultry, it was obvious to me that she had little dance and musical training. Gere had the attitude of Billy Flynn down pretty close, but couldn’t approach the suavity of James Naughton from the Broadway revival. The only one who could really hold her own was, surprisingly, Catherine Zeta-Jones. She had the training and the pizzazz and could actually sing and dance for six minutes without boring anyone. I just wonder how Bebe Neuwirth didn’t snag a role in this film.
It was fun, but better productions of “Chicago” than this will appear.