'Dreamgirls' is a lively musical affair, which tells the story of the Dreamettes, as adapted from the hit musical by 'Chicago' scriptwriter Bill Condon.
Young Motown wannabes Effie White (Hudson), Deena Jones (Knowles) and Lorrell Robinson (Rose) are sneaking out of their houses without their parents' permission to gig in talent shows by night. They wear less-than-glamorous matching homemade costumes and shabby wigs and look to Effie's songwriting brother CC (Robinson) for career advice.
They are young, naïve and desperate for that lucky break. Music mogul, and part-time used car salesman, Curtis Taylor Jr (Foxx) can see all this, as well as an incredible talent for stirring the audience with their lively performances.
That lucky break that they have been dreaming of comes when singing sensation James 'Thunder' Early (Murphy) finds himself short of some backing vocalists and the girls are drafted in. Their talent is immediately obvious to everyone around them, including music promoter Marty Morrison (Glover), who helps Curtis give them a start in the music industry.
But their relationships with each other and their management are quickly frayed when it becomes clear that Curtis wants to replace Effie with Deena as the leading lady on stage, and in his life – threatening to burst the bubble for everyone.
Former 'American Idol' star Jennifer Hudson shines as the real talent of this group, ostracised because of her failure to conform to Hollywood stereotypes of what is beautiful. She delivers a powerhouse performance, playing enthusiastic young starlet equally as well as tortured has-been. Eddie Murphy also proves that he can do serious quite credibly, really capturing the spirit of a washed-up idol.
It's debatable whether this film needed to be given the full musical treatment, as many of the numbers seem forced in their context and aren't strong enough to be particularly memorable. It would perhaps have worked as a strong drama, with the music in a prominent supporting role. Whereas 'Chicago' was always seamless in its transitions, the tracks in this serve to sever the flow of the movie at times, making it feel disjointed.
However, the film does aptly recreate an exciting time for the music industry – offering a glimpse of the glitz and glamour of the 1960s, complete with all the nasties of the music industry.
'Dreamgirls' is primarily a story of betrayal at the hands of those you trust most, and as such it has all the dramatic elements in place. But it is also about survival and resurrection in the face of cruelty, a point that newcomer Hudson hammers home convincingly, to make it worth a watch.