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Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006 01:24 pm

Yummy dream pops

Full-fledged musical assault hits the ground running

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DreamgirlsRunning Time 2:10Rated PG-13

Based loosely on the careers of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Dreamgirls hits the ground running with a full-fledged musical assault. Talent night at the Detroit Theater brings out myriad local music acts, all trying to win the contest — and fame and fortune. Though the Dreamettes — wide-eyed optimist Deena (Beyoncé Knowles), premature diva Effie (Jennifer Hudson), and naïve Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose) — fail to win first prize, they catch a break nonetheless. Knowing that James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy) has lost his backup singers, opportunistic manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) approaches the girls and offers them the job. After a brief hesitation — Effie doesn’t sing backup! — the girls accept and their stars are on the rise . . . that is, if Taylor can convince Marty Madison (Danny Glover), Early’s manager, that they’re the right group for the act.

Of course Madison agrees and off we go on yet another retelling of A Star is Born. Although this is well-traveled territory, what makes Dreamgirls worthwhile are the incredible songs by Henry Krieger. Duplicating the Motown sound, with all of its passion and fury, for the film, the enthusiastic actors do the songs justice, throwing themselves heart and soul into the performances.

Although the film is a bit choppy at times, breezing through nearly three decades in a little more than two hours, it never loses direction — and director Bill Condon makes sure that the film is far more than a musical revue with a threadbare narrative holding it together. It is also the story of how music can be used as an instrument for change and an indictment of the industry and its abuse of black performers.

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