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The supreme divas

The Broadway show ‘Dreamgirls,’ starring Beyonce, gets its film debut

The larger woman stands alone on the stage; everyone else has left her. She belts out the last furious and sorrowful lines in her thick, deep voice. She is utterly and unjustly alone; her friends have all turned their backs because she was the best and she knew it.

DIRECTED BY: Bill Condon
STARRING: Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles and Eddie Murphy
SHOWING AT: Area Theaters starting Dec. 25

The stage dims and the crowd claps, some wiping away tears after such an emotionally moving performance. After a second of darkness, the screen again fills with lights and sounds, and “Dreamgirls” continues.

The film chronicles the turbulence of the 1960s and 1970s by following a trio of aspiring singers through the changing social, political and musical climate of the era.

These changes are all minor background material compared to the intense personal changes the group experiences as they grow from the amateur Dreamettes to the widely popular Dreams.

“Dreamgirls,” based on the Broadway musical of the same title and loosely based on the story of The Supremes, traces the rise of the Dreamettes, a small-time girl group who get their big break at a local talent show.

Things get complicated, though, when large and in-charge Effie (Jennifer Hudson) gets pushed out of the spotlight by beautiful but passive Deena (Beyoncé Knowles).

When comparing the performances of Hudson and Knowles, however, the opposite is true. Hudson steals the show with her deep, soulful voice and passionate portrayal of Effie.

Knowles, on the other hand, displays resigned disinterest in her role and either does not notice or care that Hudson reigns supreme on the screen.

The music itself ranges from good (“And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”) to decent (“Cadillac Car”) to cheesy (“Dreamgirls”).

Since “Dreamgirls” is based on a musical, the random break-into-song moments seem strange at first but work out well in most instances.

The best example of these moments is when Effie, just kicked out of the group, breaks out into “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” to express her intense emotions. Hudson’s voice makes this scene.

The movie does a better-than-usual job at interpreting a Broadway play. This should come as no surprise to fans of “Chicago,” which shares a director, Bill Condon, with “Dreamgirls.”

While Hudson’s praises cannot be sung enough, other interesting performances come from Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover, who bring their respective comedic and dramatic skills to their roles.

The key separation between the good performances (Hudson, Murphy and Glover) and the bad ones (Knowles and Jamie Foxx) is the amount of passion each has for his or her role.

Toward the end of “Dreamgirls,” the group’s manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Foxx), tells Deena she was chosen as the front woman of the group because her voice was personality-less.

Knowles, one of the biggest celebrity draws to the movie, proves that line right with her lackluster performance and unimpressive vocals.

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