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Chicago (2002)

  Directed by: Rob Marshall
Starring: Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Links: Chicago on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on Video, Buy on DVD, Buy the Soundtrack
Genre: Musical

This movie gets: 6.00 (2 ratings) Ranking: Ranked equal 129th of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Too much dazzle, not nearly enough razzle" - a review by mino

I'll say it straight up: I don't like musicals. I never have, doubt I ever will. However, I like to think I'm a big enough man not to let that cloud my opinion of a movie: if I see a musical, and it really is a genuinely fantastic movie, then I'll tell you it's a fantastic movie.

Chicago is not a fantastic movie.

Don't get me wrong: it's not a bad movie, and I really did enjoy it (far more, I'll admit, than I would have thought), but it's certainly not worthy of a tenth of the hype — Oscar and otherwise — that's been tossed oh-so-casually in its general direction over the last six months.

Chicago is the story of Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger), a wannabe stage performer in 1920s-era Chicago, who is sent to prison for the murder of a man with whom she was having an affair. In prison, she meets up with the dangerous Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), another performer in jail for murder, and the sparks fly. Meanwhile, Hart's ever-faithful husband Amos works with high-priced hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) to get her out.

Needless to say, being a musical, every opportunity is taken to have the characters burst into song, even when it's not really relevant to the plot. I think that this is my biggest problem with musicals; Chicago is no exception. A song which kicks the story along is fine; at best, many of the songs in Chicago could best be described as "character development", and that's being a little kind. They could also, perhaps, be described as "a waste of time". While many of the songs are certainly enjoyable, and get the ol' toes a-tappin', those songs which actually contribute to the story (albeit perhaps marginally: Cell Block Tango, for example) improve the movie far more than do the pointless 'fluff' songs (like Razzle Dazzle).

My other problem with the Chicago-related hype (and I certainly know that I'm swimming against the stream here) is with the amount of screen time, air time, and print column inches devoted to the fantastic performances from the lead trio of Zellweger, Zeta-Jones, and Gere. My problem with this is that, alas, I think only one of them is actually any good. I've never been a fan of Zellweger at all, but her performance here really is great. She's not only enjoyable to watch (and, surprisingly, to listen to), but she also manages to get just the right mix of 'love her or hate her' to make the Roxie character work. For once, I have no complaints with Zellweger's performance.

Zeta-Jones, alas, is not nearly as entertaining. Sure, she plays the part of a spoilt brat whining for attention from a creepy, ageing Lothario well (ahem), but I'm not actually convinced that she can, as such, act. Not only is she one of those actors who seems to play the exact same role every time, but I'm not all that sure that her character in Chicago is all that different from, say, her character in Entrapment (1999). For mine, this signifies a slight problem of technique.

By far the least convincing of the trio, though, is Gere. He appears rather late in the movie — by the time he showed up I had, in fact, forgotten that he was even in it — but straight away he gets off on the wrong foot with All I Care About, which is truly awful; indubitably the worst in the movie. Gere keeps his trademark stupid smirk on his face for not only the whole of this song, but indeed most of his screentime. I've never thought much of Gere, and Chicago did little to change my mind. Gere spends the whole movie hamstering it up, never once really bothering to put any effort into actually acting. (Oh, sorry, did I say hamstering it up? I meant hamming, of course. 'Hamstering'. How silly. No idea where that came from).

If there's anything that drags Chicago out from under the 'merely mediocre' umbrella, it's the little-hyped supporting performances. Queen Latifah is certainly very enjoyable as domineering prison warden 'Mama', gifted with some truly great lines in her big number, When You're Good to Mama ("They say that life is tit-for-tat / And that's the way I live / So I deserve a lot of tat / For what I've got to give"); John C. Reilly, however, as the cuckolded Amos, is absolutely superb. His understated, low-key performance extends from some great character acting through to a terribly poignant song (Mister Cellophane): if anyone deserved an Oscar from this movie, it was he.

Sure, Chicago is a fun way to spend a couple of hours: but even speaking as someone who's not a fan of the musical genre, I can tell you right now that when it comes to awardworthiness, it's hard to see how Chicago is even a patch on, say, Moulin Rouge. Perhaps the Oscars hype over the former is merely a way of making up for not adequately rewarding the latter.

Good movie. Pity about all the singing.

mino gives this movie 5 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 24 Apr 2003

Movie review statistics

Ratings given without reviews:

Number of reviews: 1
Number of ratings: 2
Average rating: 6.00
Lowest rating: 5 (by mino)
Highest rating: 7 (by em_fiction)
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