|Distributor:||Miramax Home Entertainment|
Bob Fosse’s sexy cynicism still shines in Chicago, a faithful movie adaptation of the choreographer-director’s 1975 Broadway musical. Of course the story, all about merry murderesses and tabloid fame, is set in the Roaring ‘20s, but Chicago reeks of ‘70s disenchantment—this isn’t just Fosse’s material, it’s his attitude, too. That’s probably why the movie’s breathless observations on fleeting fame and fickle public taste already seem dated. However, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are beautifully matched as Jazz Age vixens, and Richard Gere…
Bob Fosse’s sexy cynicism still shines in Chicago, a faithful movie adaptation of the choreographer-director’s 1975 Broadway musical. Of course the story, all about merry murderesses and tabloid fame, is set in the Roaring ‘20s, but Chicago reeks of ‘70s disenchantment—this isn’t just Fosse’s material, it’s his attitude, too. That’s probably why the movie’s breathless observations on fleeting fame and fickle public taste already seem dated. However, Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are beautifully matched as Jazz Age vixens, and Richard Gere gleefully sheds his customary cool to belt out a showstopper. (Yes, they all do their own singing and dancing.) Whatever qualms musical purists may have about director Rob Marshall’s cut-cut-cut style, the film’s sheer exuberance is intoxicating. Given the scarcity of big-screen musicals in the last 25 years, that’s a cause for singing, dancing, cheering. And all that jazz. —Robert Horton
Barnes and Noble
The once-moribund movie musical has been rather spectacularly revived in recent years, but nothing has matched the success of Chicago, Rob Marshall’s eye-popping (and Best Picture-winning) adaptation of the classic Broadway musical originally brought to the stage by Bob Fosse. Adapted by Fosse, Fred Ebb, and John Kander from an earlier play (previously filmed twice, once starring Ginger Rogers), Chicago tells the story of Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger), a marginally talented Jazz Era wannabe who becomes a Windy City sensation by murdering the duplicitous lover with whom she’d been maintaining an adulterous relationship. While in the Cook County Jail, Roxie grabs more publicity by hiring flamboyant defense lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who’s also representing Roxie’s rival, stage star Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Both women expect to be acquitted in their respective murder trials, thereby gleaning enough publicity to further their show-business careers. Director Marshall, a screen newcomer, pulls off the not-inconsiderable feat of making the Fosse stage play cinematic without sacrificing the stylized artificiality of a theatrical presentation. He does this by juxtaposing narrative material—shot with all due attention paid to accurately replicating period costuming, hairstyles, and settings—with expressionistic musical numbers performed on smoky, shadowy, sparsely furnished sets. The legendary Kander-Ebb score receives spirited interpretation by the principal players, all of whom do their own singing and dancing. Virtually every number is a delight, beginning with Velma’s signature tune, “All That Jazz,” and including the rollicking “When You’re Good to Mama” (sung lustily by Queen Latifah, who’s brilliant as a cheerfully corrupt prison matron), the poignant “Mister Cellophane” (done to a turn by John C. Reilly, playing Roxie’s dimwitted, cuckolded husband), and the showstopping “Cell Block Tango,” “We Both Reached for the Gun,” and “Razzle Dazzle.” Zeta-Jones, known primarily for her dramatic work, sparkles as Velma; her athletic dancing is a joy to behold. Zellweger is appropriately pert and sassy as the amoral Roxie, and she, too, exhibits a hitherto unsuspected flair for Terpsichore. Chicago is a delight from first frame to last. It’s just like the Roaring ‘20s during which it is set—loud, flashy, occasionally vulgar, but joyously uninhibited. We guarantee that one viewing won’t be enough; you’ll want to revisit this movie again and again.
The movie version of Kander and Ebb’s Chicago was long in the making, but it’s well worth the wait. Director Rob Marshall’s main change was to turn the classic musical numbers into fantasy sequences, but of course this isn’t obvious on CD. Most importantly, the arrangements are bursting with life while being true to the show’s spirit, and the casting is simply inspired. Catherine Zeta-Jones actually started her career on the British boards (she was in The Pajama Game and 42nd Street), so her turn as slinky Velma Kelly isn’t that surprising;…