The way to showbiz stardom is not winning a reality show, it’s becoming a runner up. With the release of DREAMGIRLS, Jennifer Hudson’s career will skyrocket past Fantasia’s. Fellow loser, Diana DeGarmo has a nifty Broadway career and will probably eclipse Fantasia too. (Fantasia’s already done the MOW on her life. That’s usually the last stop until Disney on Ice). Meanwhile, Ruben Studdard is eating Clay Aiken’s dust (even with the bad haircut).
And it’s not just AMERICAN IDOL contestants. SURVIVOR winner, Richard Hatch is rotting in jail while runner-up, Elisabeth Hasselbeck is a co-host on THE VIEW (although in this case, I’d rather be Richard).
But of all these close-but-no-cigar players, none will take off like Jennifer Hudson when DREAMGIRLS is released. Her performance was nothing short of mind blowing. I know Jennifer Holiday wowed ‘em on Broadway in this role, but when Hudson (it’s hard to keep my Jennifer H’s straight) sings the big show stopping number it’s as thrilling an experience as you are likely to have in a movie this year. The audience cheered loudly, which is always odd to me because you’re cheering at a screen. Jennifer can’t hear you, folks!!
The movie itself was terrific. When Dreamworks was hyping it with teasers in the theaters a year ago even before they shot one foot of film, I was leery. Recent memories of the giant misfires that were RENT and THE PRODUCERS danced through my head. But writer/director, Bill Condon really pulled it off. DREAMGIRLS is the Supremes meet CHICAGO. It has Oscar written all over it, unless the movie is a bomb and then it’s like “what the hell were they thinking?’ But I got a feeling the movie will be a hit. It’s a little long (I make that complaint so often these days I should just get a stamp), but vibrant and visually exciting throughout. I imagine even the coveted “youth market” will go for this film because a lot of the songs are those Whitney Houston type big belting “Believe in yourself, Follow your dream, The only way I can be me for you is to be me for me” numbers. And Beyonce. Hard to imagine Beyonce not being the best singer in the movie, but even as number two she kicks ass. And she looks scrumptious. Diana Ross never looked that good even in her prime and with all the air brushing in the world.
The third girl, Anika Noni Rose, was also great but so overshadowed by the other two I don’t think even her parents noticed she was in the movie.
Jaimie Foxx played the part Billy D. Williams would have played twenty years ago. Loretta Devine, one of the original DREAMGIRLS, had a small part, a nice nod to the Broadway production. And John Cenatiempo as Thug #1 gave his usual solid performance.
But the real pleasant surprise was Eddie Murphy. Even if this movie sells only three tickets he will get an Oscar nomination, and probably a win. Not only is his acting superb and comic timing impeccable, but Jesus, he can really SING. Think Marvin Gaye before his father shot him. You watch him in DREAMGIRLS and say, “Eddie, what the hell are you doing wasting your talent prancing around in fat suits doing fart jokes?”
The movie musical is once again alive. And if Hollywood wants to do a big screen version of JERSEY BOYS, the story of the Four Seasons, might I suggest casting Bo Bice, Boston Rob, Chris Daughtry, and Johnny Fairplay.