Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Chicago

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
7 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Renée Zellweger as Roxie Hart
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly
Richard Gere as Billy Flynn
Queen Latifah as Matron 'Mama' Morton
John C. Reilly as Amos Hart
Lucy Liu as Kitty Baxter
Taye Diggs as The Bandleader
Colm Feore as District Attorney Martin Harrison
Christine Baranski as Mary Sunshine
Dominic West as Fred Casely
Mya as Mona
Deirdre Goodwin as June
Ekaterina Chtchelkanova as Katalin Helinszki
Denise Faye as Annie
Susan Misner as Liz

Special Features:
Commentary by director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon

Deleted musical number "Class"

Behind-the-scenes featurette

Widescreen anamorphic format

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 94 Minutes

Synopsis:
This movie is based on the play and musical of the same name.

In the 1920’s, Roxie Hart dreams of becoming a star like her idol, Velma Kelly. The fact that Velma is arrested for killing her sister and lover doesn’t faze Roxie a bit. It makes her all the more willing to do anything to win fame and fortune. She’s even willing to cheat on her goodhearted, though dim, husband Amos Hart in order to be a celebrity.

When her lover turns out to be an abusive liar who can’t help her get a stage audition, Roxie shoots him in a fit of rage. She’s taken to jail and expected to hang for killing the man. Roxie’s fantasies of stardom continue, though, as she encounters Velma in jail and hires the famous Billy Flynn as her attorney. Through a fog of daydreams about being on stage, Roxie makes her way through harsh reality.

It turns out being thrown in jail and put on trial for murder is just what she needs to become a media starlet. Through manipulation of the press and public opinion, Roxie becomes a real sensation without ever showing any talent. But can she hold on to her dream?

Chicago is rated PG-13 for sexual content and dialogue, violence and thematic elements.

The Movie:
I missed Chicago when it first hit theaters. The first time I ever saw it was on an airplane on the way to Prague to visit the set of Hellboy. The screen was tiny, the headphones marginally operational, and the person in front of me had their seat leaned all the way back. In short, it wasn’t the best way to see the film. So when I saw it on the home theater system in the comfort of my own living room, I found it a much more enjoyable experience. While I wasn’t terribly impressed with the film the first time around, I thought it was better on my second viewing. I guess I had to overcome the hurdle of the massive media hype before I could see the movie for what it really was. While I don’t think Chicago was as great as the hype and 6 Oscar wins would lead you to believe, I still thought it was a decent film worth checking out. I’m not a big fan of musicals or Broadway plays, but Chicago was entertaining to me.

The acting in the film is great. While all the characters are played in over-the-top theatrical style, the entire cast steps up to the plate to show off talents that you never knew they possessed. Zellweger, Jones, and Gere all do their own singing and dancing and they are superb. They all have strong voices and can really belt out the tunes. Richard Gere even does a full tap dance number that is impressive. They are all perfectly cast and they will make you believe that they are the characters by the end.

The music in the film is excellent. I liked the songs better when I heard them the second time around. One of the more memorable songs is “When You're Good to Mama”, a funny song filled with sexual innuendo sung by Queen Latifah. Everybody already knew Latifah could sing, but she ends up fitting perfectly into the Broadway role in this lighthearted song. “Cell Block Tango” is a sexy number led by Catherine Zeta-Jones. The tune will stick in your head long after viewing the movie and the choreography in the musical number is pretty hot stuff. “I Can't Do It Alone” features Jones again showing off her talent at singing, dancing, and being funny. Other songs in the film range in quality and toe-tapability, but they are all good. You may want to pick up the soundtrack for this movie.

This story is a satire, so the plot is a lot of fun. Fame, manipulation of the media, and changing public opinion are all fodder for the storyline. Richard Gere’s manipulation of the judge and jury at the trial is masterful and his tap dance around the truth makes it one of the more memorable scenes in the movie. The whole thing is reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson trial, and I imagine the upcoming Kobe Bryant trial. It’s all about public opinion and how you spin things, not if you’re innocent or guilty. Fleeting celebrity is also a big theme in the film as Roxie gets her 15 minutes of fame. Time and again you see celebrities come and go, and that’s exactly what happens to Velma and Roxie.

My only problem with the movie is that there are no likable characters. They’re all basically despicable people (except for Amos). Roxie is selfish, vain, dumb, a murderer, and an adulteress. Velma is cut from the same cloth. Billy is a lawyer (nuff said). In short, there’s no good guy to root for. As Roxie and Velma have their slam bang exciting closing number to cheers and applause, I can’t help but think of all the horrible things they’ve done. Of course, that’s the point of the movie, but deep down I like to see the good guys win in the end. These aren’t the good guys.

I never saw the original play or musical, so I can’t comment on how the movie compares to it. However, I think turning the song and dance numbers into fantasies of Roxie’s was a brilliant move. It made everything fit together much nicer and it fit the mood of her desire for stardom. It appears the liberties Rob Marshall took with the play have really enhanced the story.

The Extras:
There are only three extra features on this DVD, so I’m wondering if there’s going to be a special edition DVD in the future. Here’s what you will be able to find on the DVD:

Commentary by director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon – Marshall and Condon give a great commentary. They get heavy into the details of adapting the musical into a movie. You really get an appreciation for how much they had to change it and how well they ended up making it work. They talk about the personal touches added to the characters by Jones, Gere, and Zellweger. They also talks about how John C. Reilly petitioned them for the role of Amos Hart. Overall it’s a really interesting and insightful commentary on the movie. If you’re a fan of this film, this is required for you to check out.

Deleted musical number "Class" – While it’s nice to get an extra musical number on this DVD, I was a little surprised by the content. In this scene Mama and Velma sit around talking about how people don’t seem to have class now like they did in the old days. As they sing, they use language that shows that they seem to be lacking class themselves. “Class” uses a lot of profanity to get its point across, so much so that I was a bit surprised. It won’t phase most people, but I thought it was a good cut from the film. The tune is not memorable and it slows down the pace of the movie.

Behind-the-scenes featurette – This is a great video talking about the making of Chicago. It’s about 20 minutes long and it talks about every subject you could hope for. They discuss the origins of the story, it’s transformation into a musical, the costumes, sets, choreography, casting, and more. There are interviews with all the actors and lots of footage of them rehearing for their songs and dances. You also get a real sense of how Catherine Zeta-Jones helped out Renee Zellweger and got her up to speed on performing in a musical. As you watch the footage you see that everyone seemed to be having a really great time and it looks like a fun set to have worked on.

The Bottom Line:
If you liked the movie when it hit theaters or if you like musicals in general, then you’re going to want to add the Chicago DVD to your collection. While I’m not as keen on musicals, I thought it was still worth checking out.

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