Let the backlash begin somewhere, and during this holiday season, let it begin with me. At an all-media screening of Paramount’s “Dreamgirls” held on Thursday night in New York, audiences clapped and cried, while I watched somewhat bored as the highly stylized musical melodrama unfolded in swiftly edited scenes before me. I’m not prone to love musicals, so I fully admit I’m not the target “Dreamgirls” audience, but all this hoopla over the film is overdone. Sure, it moves along the years at breakneck speed, fueled by constant musical numbers from soul to boogie-woogie to a funny Jackson 5 rip-off, with little instances of civil rights history leaking in from the sidelines.
But it all comes at the expense of true character development and the far harsher realities of racial strife. Feel free to disagree with me, but a show-stopping teary-eyed musical solo doesn’t have the same emotional truth as a quiet lived moment of private pain. I guess this is the kind of showy stuff that Oscar voters and prognosticators love, but every time I felt a pang of sympathy for the characters, it seemed cheap and manipulated. I still suspect it’s better than “Chicago,” but it’s no “best movie of the year.” Maybe the National Board of Review actually gone one thing right this year.