Gotta Have Me Some Soul From "Dreamgirls"
I once watched The Oprah Winfrey Show where the guests were two singers I like - Beyonce Knowles and Jamie Foxx. For a moment, I thought they were talking about some collaboration on an album. But as soon as Winfrey called to the stage comedian Eddie Murphy, Broadway star Anika Noni Rose, and American Idol sensation Jennifer Hudson, I knew there was something more. Watching on, I discovered that these five stars were talking about their latest movie, Dreamgirls.
A film with a powerhouse cast? A musical? That piqued my interest. Thus, I lost no time going to the nearest video shop to buy the DVD. As soon as I played it and saw the opening scene, I immediately declared, "Hey, it sounds like Motown!" (And I still keep my albums of these artists whose music I listened and danced to in the ‘70s.)
Yes, Dreamgirls is a film for those of us who like the '60s and '70s American R&B music. Brought to the big screen from the Broadway stage, the movie is about the denizens of the music industry. It's the story of how a black female group from Detroit, Michigan - Deena Jones & the Dreams (Knowles as Deena, Rose as Lorrell Maya Robinson, and Hudson as Effie White) - gets a lucky break and quickly rises to stardom. Spicing up the story is the maneuvering of the record producer Curtis Taylor, Jr. (played by Foxx) who clashes with talent manager Marty Madison (played by Danny Glover) and songwriter C.C. White (played by Keith Robinson). Add to that the pitiful downfall of Effie and loud performer Jimmy "Thunder" Early (played by Murphy).
I associate Deena Jones & the Dreams with Diana Ross & the Supremes, Jimmy "Thunder" Early with James Brown, C.C. White with Smokey Robinson, and The Campbell Connection with The Jackson 5.
Yet, what gets me hooked each time I watch Dreamgirls is not the story, but the music! The song and dance sequences are simply sensational! I snap my fingers and sing along to the upbeat songs Move, Fake Your Way to the Top, Cadillac Car, Steppin' to the Bad Side (love the "Gonna take a mean ride" line!) and Heavy.
Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Deena (Beyonce Knowles) and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) performing "Move"
"Steppin' to the Bad Side"
But the tunes that so captivate me are the mellow Family and When I First Saw You which Foxx and Knowles sing as a duet at the closing credits.
We are a family
Like a giant tree
Branching out toward the sky.
We are a family.
We are so much more
Than just you and I.
We are a family
Like a giant tree
Growing stronger, growing wiser.
We are growing free.— From "Family"
Curtis (Jamie Foxx) singing "When I First Saw You"
Still, my attention is immediately drawn to the It’s All Over number, as I feel its intensity. It’s amazing how a confrontation scene can be well presented with music.
"It's All Over"
Also, Hudson's rendition of And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going is, indeed, a praiseworthy effort. (But I do feel squeamish about her mushing over Foxx!)
Hudson belting out "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"
My kudos, too, to Murphy for doing an exceptional job playing Jimmy. I’m especially entertained by his raucous performances in the numbers Fake Your Way to the Top and Jimmy’s Rap. In fact, my son loves aping him that I have to stop him from declaring "Sweet Mother Jesus" which I consider a profanity.
Jimmy “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy) doing his grating "Fake Your Way to the Top"
I'm amused at Lorrell who’s foolishly devoted to Jimmy. I find her naive and dumb, particularly in that bus scene where she asks Jimmy "What's R&B mean?", and he jokes, "Rough and black."
I’m also impressed by the little lead singer of The Campbell Connection. In the number Perfect World, he performs his Michael Jackson-inspired role with much ease and confidence.
I recommend Dreamgirls to anyone looking for lively entertainment. The songs will keep playing in your head after watching it. Just think of these lyrics : "We're your dreamgirls...Boys, we'll make you happy."