Chicago (2002), Cert 12A.

Director - Rob Marshall.

Writer - Bill Condon.

Starring - Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta Jones, Queen Latifah, Lucy Lui, Mya & John C. Reilly.

 

Premise - Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) is a wannabe cabaret star in Chicago of the 1920's. After the man she is cheating on her husband with, reveals that he has been lying about his Jazz contacts to get her into bed, Roxie shoots him dead. In jail she hires suave lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) to get her off, all the while vying for tabloid headlines with fellow jazz killer inmate Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta Jones).

Iím not the worldís biggest fan of musicals, in-fact I can only name three that I rate above average, The Wizard of Oz, Moulin Rouge and South Park: The Movie. I basically have a hard time watching a movie where the cast spontaneously burst into song every five minutes for no good reason. So itís surprising that I actually rate Chicago at all, because by all rights I should hate it. Itís not as good as the musicals I mention above, but I give it a passing mark, just.

Chicago is certainly entertaining from a musical and visual point of view. The many (and I mean many) musical numbers are quite catchy and the choreography is very impressive. Itís even more impressive since I understand that only Catherine Zeta Jones is a trained dancer. Jones also seems to be the best as far as the singing goes, with Zellweger and Gere performing well, but they can sound a little bit weak at times.

As far as the non-singing parts of the film go everybody does very well. I am no fan of Zeta Jones or Richard Gere, but both are good here with Jones apparently well suited to the ice bitch role of Velma Kelly. Of course we all know that Gere can play these kinds of charisma filled roles in his sleep and this film is no exception. John C. Reilly has been very prolific this year, itís nice to see him in so many big movies; he finally seems to be getting the audience he deserves. Heís played this kind of timid, down trodden role before and does the business again here. I was surprised at the quality of his singing in his number, although apparently he has done some musicals before.

The big surprise for me though was Queen Latifah as the prison guard Mama. Obviously she can hold her own in the musical segments, but she is also very impressive in the dialogue scenes. Lucy Lui has a small, but very memorable scene and keep an eye out for R&B star Mya in another small role.

Director Rob Marshall keeps the pace frenetic never letting the tempo drop for a second. Chicago is his first feature film after a career of directing for the stage and he appears to be happy within this kind of movie. The camera swirlís about during the musical numbers and the rest of the film is shot with a nice eye. Cleverly, so as not to make the film like a recording of the stage production, the musical numbers appear as is if they are happening in Roxieís mind. This allows Marshall to meld normal scenes with musical numbers, it gives the film an almost dream like quality.

Where the film falls down is not only my general hatred of musicals (which is admittedly my beef), but also in the fact that there are very few characters with which to connect with. All the main characters (and many of the peripheral ones) are self serving, media hungry, generally unlikable people. You canít feel any sympathy for these people so in the end you donít care if they live or meet their maker on the gallows. Only John C. Reillyís character is worthy of your pity, but you could say that he is too weak, a bit of a wuss really.

Also, the overriding theme of the fickle nature of the media has really been beaten to death in movies over the past decade. The media creating celebrities out of criminals has been done to death in films like ĎNatural Born Killersí and has been done better. It grows tiresome to see characters that you donít really care about, using increasingly cheap tactics to try and get more column inches than the other.

There is much to enjoy about Chicago, itís highly entertaining from a visceral point of view, but I feel you might be better served going to the theatre and seeing the live show. Basically itís going to come down to one factor, do you like musicals or not? If so then you will probably eat up Chicago. If not give it a shot, you never know, but chances are you will not be a fan.

 

/10.

See Chicago if you enjoyed - Moulin Rouge, Cabaret.

Poster Quote - Pretty jazzy.