Dreamgirls, Children, Iwo Jima and more
Christmas is over, the new year has arrived, and top ten movie lists are springing up all over the place. You can scan almost 200 critics' lists at Movie City News, and Christianity Today Movies will run its end-of-year lists in the weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, the cineplexes are full of end-of-2006 releases competing for Oscar attention. Are any of them worth watching? Or is it all just a bunch of hype? Here's an overview of recent releases, and what Christian film critics are saying about some of these movies.
American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson is singing up a storm in Dreamgirls, the big screen version of the popular Broadway musical.
Hudson plays Effie, one member of the Dreamettes, a Detroit vocal trio that also includes Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose). Effie's lover, Curtis (Jamie Foxx), is their manager. Add Eddie Murphy in a supporting performance that's getting some Oscar buzz, and you've got quite a cast.
Still, it's newcomer Hudson, and her show-stopping number near the end of the film, that has critics raving. But that doesn't necessarily mean the film is something to celebrate. Christian film critics have some reservations about this film, which was hyped as a sure-thing Oscar winner.
Peter T. Chattaway (Christianity Today Movies) praises Hudson, but asks if Oscars should really be handed out for intensity rather than acting. He also notes that it's "almost a concert movie, and the 'dramatic' bits that come between the songs are little more than padding or connective tissue. … What matters is the songs, some of which do work rather well; you're likely to come out of the theater humming one or two of them, and you might even feel the urge to get the soundtrack. But this isn't anywhere near the year's best picture … this shallow film is a product to be sold, pure and simple."
Brett McCracken (Relevant) praises Hudson's performance, but is troubled by the way her performance has been "ravenously marketed" as an Oscar-winning turn. "It is not that I don't want—or think—Hudson should get awards; it's just a shame that her performance was so quickly co-opted by the E! buzz machine and turned into a vehicle by which the luminous young ingé nue might win a coveted trophy."
Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) says director Bill Condon has "skillfully refashioned the show for the screen, turning most of the sung recitatives into spoken dialogue. And taking a page from the way Chicago was done, he has used a lot of quick cuts here to make sure attention never lags. … The cast is uniformly excellent …" Forbes praises Hudson and Murphy as well.
Adam R. Holz (Plugged In) says, "The film's all-star cast turns in powerful, emotional performances. … Big, polished and highly produced as it may be, however, Dreamgirls is badly let down by its lack of a solid moral core. … In a world where sexual promiscuity is rampant culturally, it's always disappointing to see yet another movie that confirms such choices as status quo."
Stephen McGarvey (Crosswalk) says, "Perhaps this story worked much better on stage, but as one of this year's most anticipated films, Dreamgirls is disappointing. Successful musicals on both stage and screen must exude a great deal of energy. Dreamgirls unfortunately has very little."
Mainstream critics have some gripes, but most are taking it for granted the film will be an Oscar frontrunner.