Chicago Review by Dave Smith
Way back in 1942 Nunnally Johnson wrote a screenplay entitled "Roxie Hart." It was set in the "roaring twenties" and was about a publicity-seeking dancer on trial for murder. William Wellman directed and Ginger Rogers was Roxie Hart. Adolphe Menjou was her slick shyster lawyer. In 1975 Bob Fosse took this plot and created the musical, "Chicago." It was strikingly similar to Fosse's hit "Cabaret." Fosse was set to direct the musical version of "Chicago" when he suddenly died in 1987. "Chicago" was revived on Broadway in 1996 and talk of a movie version popped up again. This time choreographer/director Rob Marshall took over and produced a very acceptable film version of the stage musical. While Marshall leaves his mark as choreographer, he is never able to get away from Fosse. Thus, the dance sequences remind you of a Fosse production. It is always dangerous to cast non-singers and non-dancers in a musical. Peter Bogdanovich's disastrous "At Long Last Love" serves as a prime example. However Marshall is lucky in that Catherine Zeta-Jones started out as a dancer and John C. Reilly also has a musical background. Richard Gere is a musician, having played his own cornet solos in "The Cotton Club." Unfortunately he is no dancer and his stumbling attempts at tap dancing are mercifully disquised with skillful editing. Rene Zellweger has made me believe she can do almost anything. She comes up with a "Betty Boop" type of voice which is more than satisfactory and her dancing is very good, almost up to the level of Zeta-Jones. This is the second big movie musical to make a big splash. The first, "Moulin Rouge," did very well at the box office. However "Chicago" is different. It is a series of musical numbers interrupted by a story, rather than the reverse. Some people may feel worn out when they leave the theatre because the movie brims with frenetic energy. Today movie musicals are few and far between. Although I do wish we had someone like Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera around to handle parts in a movie like this, Zeta-Jones and Zellweger are not that bad.