Dreamgirls was first released on Blu-ray in 2007. A decade later, Paramount has released a Director’s Extended Version of the film that takes advantage of subsequent advances in Blu-ray technology. Highlights include a new DTS:X Master Audio soundtrack, and while the 1080p image hasn’t been remastered, it has received a new, more efficient MPEG-4 encode. The disc also includes some new extras, and comes in DigiBook packaging.
Bringing very successful Broadway musicals to the big screen is notoriously difficult. It is often easy to lose the power and intimacy created on a stage, when a story is magnified to fit the bigger than life proportions of a Hollywood film.
Written and directed by Bill Condon (Beauty and the Beast), from a book by Tom Eyen. Dreamgirls, the thinly veiled story of Motown and its most successful girl group The Supremes was a smash hit when it debuted on Broadway in 1981. For twenty-five years some of Hollywood’s biggest players including David Geffen, tried to get a film version made but couldn’t see it through.
Dreamgirls is the story of three African-American girls from Detroit with dreams of being singing stars in the early sixties. As the film opens, the three girls Deena (Beyoncé Knowles), Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), and Effie (Jennifer Hudson) known as the Dreamettes intend to win a talent show using a routine cooked up by Effie’s brother C.C. (Keith Robinson) in hopes of a big break. Unbeknownst to them, the show is rigged against them. After the show a Cadillac salesman named Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) who yearns to be a music industry insider, realizes that the Dreamettes would be a perfect backup group for R&B star James “Thunder” Early (Eddie Murphy). Suddenly everyone’s dreams are falling into place.
It quickly becomes clear that talent isn’t all it takes to become a star. Payola must be used to get the Dreamettes records on the radio and most cruelly of all, Effie, the girl with the gigantic voice is moved to back up singer in favor of the visually stunning Deena.
The casting of Dreamgirls is superb. Beyoncé Knowles plays Deena with the burning ambition that Deena obviously has to succeed but she also gives her a sense of frustration that crackles below the surface through much of the film, blazing forth as she sings the song “Listen.” It is then that we are sure that she has found her own voice and the confidence to break away from Curtis Taylor Jr. Jennifer Hudson simply became Effie. That’s saying a lot since Effie is the role that made the great Jennifer Holliday a star on Broadway. When I first went to see Dreamgirls in a movie theater I remember thinking, “Well, nobody can sing that part as good as Jennifer Holiday but maybe she won’t be terrible.” Suffice to say, when Ms. Hudson sang “And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going” the audience, including me, was mesmerized. When the song was over, most of the audience applauded as if we were watching a live performance.
Eddie Murphy gives the finest performance of his career as James “Thunder” Early. Early represents countless black entertainers during the sixties who couldn’t gain ‘superstar’ status because of the racial divides that were going on in America at the time. He represents the musician who came before, making the success of artists like Otis Redding and James Brown possible.
Bill Condon successfully mixes numerous onstage musical numbers with plenty of offstage material to set up the backstory. Condon makes you care what happens to each of the characters, even in those moments when you might not like them very much.
The new MPEG-4 encode (replacing the previous MPEG-2 encode) results in a solid presentation across the board. Filmic throughout with a pleasing amount of grain, textures–the fine fabric of period clothing–is captured with ease. Facial details are readily apparent. Colors are vibrant, and we’ll saturated. Black levels are deep, and inky. Flesh tones look natural. There are no real source flaws apparent. While it’s a shame Paramount didn’t see fit to release Dreamgirls in 4K, this Blu-ray does possess a quality image.
The real selling point of this package is without a doubt, the new soundtrack. The DTS-X track is a marvel for this music dominated film. The numerous songs are perfectly placed, filling the entire soundscape and opening up in the rears. Effects are appropriate, and crowd noise puts you right in the middle of a performance. The score is warm and deep throughout the presentation, with clean highs and deep lows. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise, never becoming muffled by any of the music or effects. Fans should be very pleased with this mix.
English, Spanish, French, and Japanese subtitles are included.
The 2017 Blu-ray loses all the 2007 release’s extras, but it compensates with some new materials.
- We get both the film’s Theatrical Cut (2:10:12) as well as a Director’s Extended Edition (2:20:22).
- Jennifer Hudson Auditions and Screen Test. Three auditions: “Can He Even Sing” (0:48), “What About Me” (2:04), and “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” (4:04).
- DVD of the film.
- DigiBook Packaging: Includes an introductory note from writer/director Bill Condon, photos, and song lyrics.
Movie title: Dreamgirls (2006)
Director(s): Bill Condon
Actor(s): Jamie Foxx , Beyoncé Knowles , Eddie Murphy , Jennifer Hudson , Danny Glover , Anika Noni Rose
Genre: Musical, Music, Period, Drama