When people think of the musical Chicago, they immediately think of Bob Fosse's memorable choreography. So when Rob Marshall (Annie) turned it into a movie and rechoreographed all the songs, it was a brave thing to do. Marshall wanted to do this adaptation for years, and the other large departure was to make all of the musical numbers take place within the imagination of Roxie Hart, aspiring singer. This was a good move, since movie musicals are a rarity in today's marketplace. Today's audience is not too amenable to watching people randomly break out into song, no matter how well done it is. Chicago the movie is a good complement to the musical.
Part of what makes Chicago so enjoyable is the timeless quality of its themes (it's set in the 1920s). People today are scrambling for their fifteen minutes of fame, lawyers can still be slaves to their money, and the press can still latch on to whatever flavor of the month there is. Roxie (Renee Zellweger, White Oleander, Bridget Jones's Diary) is one of these wannabes, who has questionable talent. She lands in jail after murdering a man she believed was going to help her make it big in showbusiness. In jail, she meets her idol Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones, America's Sweethearts, Traffic), in jail for murdering her husband and sister. Although she is in jail, Velma stays in the papers every day thanks to her lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere, Unfaithful, The Mothman Prophecies). Roxie hires Billy and gets her name in the papers, much to the annoyance of Velma, who hates relinquishing the spotlight.
Marshall, along with screenwriter Bill Condon (The Devil and Daniel Webster, Gods and Monsters) deserve a lot of credit for ably adapting the movie to the screen. They also managed to cast three stars who embody their characters well. Gere can easily (sometimes too easily) affect a haughty, aloof quality. Zellweger always exudes a sense of naivete, and Zeta-Jones has a sultry feel to her. All of the characters in Chicago have a shameless feel to them, and it's a lot of fun watching them go about all their ploys for fame. The fact that it is a musical just makes it more enjoyable. The transitions to the songs are well done, and the cast can sing decently. The biggest distraction is that until the later numbers, Marshall refuses to keep his camera still when people break into song. He zooms in close and constantly cuts to other dancers or different views, so that it's difficult to enjoy the choreography.
|Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.|
|1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content and dialogue, violence and thematic elements.|
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