Dreamgirls Blu-ray: Review By Evan "Mushy" Jacobs

This Blu-ray disc looks extraordinary.
  • OVERALL
    4.5
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
This Blu-ray disc looks extraordinary.
THE BAD
Sometimes this movie seemed to offer me too many supplemental options in the Blu-ray format.
THE FEATURE
Dreamgirls is a tale of fame and fortune. Of dreams coming true and of dreams being dashed. Director Bill Condon has essentially made two movies here, and in doing so seems to be confident enough that viewers will be able to keep up with his changes. Like many musicians, he isn't afraid to challenge his audience in this story of Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Deena (Beyonce Knowles) and Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), who rise from background singers to the foreground through the help of their manager Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx). Going from being the Dreamettes to the Dreams, these girls end up replacing James "Thunder " Early (Eddie Murphy) who doesn't seem to be able to connect with white audiences. In addition to this, Deena replaces Effie as the main focal point of the group (it was actually reversed in real life with Hudson taking home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar), and in the process ends up becoming the new apple of Curtis Taylor's eye.

I have heard talk of Motown, the Supremes and other things that this film borrowed from to tell it's story, but at its core Dreamgirls is a classic Hollywood drama. It is a tale of what happens when success comes for some and when it eludes others. It makes no bones about both celebrating and defiling an industry that doesn't care at all about you... until it does.
THE EXTRAS
Exclusive Jennifer Hudson Performance and Extended and Alternate Scenes

I suppose if I was more excited about the musical numbers from this film I probably would have liked the Exclusive Jennifer Hudson Performance. As it was, this was good to watch but someone who I was watching it with claimed that they liked her better on American Idol. Judge for yourself, although I will admit that I sort of wonder where she goes from here? There are 12 Extended and Alternate Scenes all of which seem to play really nicely here. I didn't have time to run through them all, but they have done a fine job giving all these sections their due time. Some of the scenes were from Dreamgirls but they were just extended, while others contained what best can be described as alternate takes. Fans of this movie will really love this section because I think it has the biggest hand in taking the viewer deeper inside the experience of this film.

"Building The Dream"

A very long doc*mentary, this high definition look at the making of this film is broken down up into 9 chapters. It looks at the origins of this story, the history of the musical, the Broadway play upon which it was based, and basically seems like it could have been released on a separate disc. Its rare that something like this is put together and actually seems to rival the film that it is examining, but that seems to be the case here. While I did enjoy the experience of getting to watch Dreamgirls, I was very taken with this doc*mentary. Of course it doesn't directly come out and point fingers or say who or what this film is exactly based on, I think its good for people seeing this movie to draw their own conclusions. This doc*mentary also looked really good which was another reason it stood out to me and rivaled the film for my attention.

Image Gallery

Featurettes

There are three featurettes that come on the Dreamgirls DVD and they are:

- Dream Logic: Film Editing

- Dressing The Dreams: Costume Design

- Center Stage: Theatrical Lighting

While not the longest of featurettes these pieces (which is the most appropriate word for them) seem to offer even more glimpses behind the creative process of this film. They're titles are pretty self explanatory with the most interesting one (to me) being Dream Logic: Film Editing. Director Bill Condon and Editor Virginia Katz give us a look at how they cut this film. I always like hearing about the choices that were made in terms of utilizing film language, what the audience does and doesn't need to know, and why they chose to emphasize certain things over others. My only complaint is that this section didn't even go past the 5 minute mark and I think it should have been longer.

Previsualization Sequences

Auditions

Auditions can usually go either way for me and I tend to stay away from them because they have a way of taking me out of the story. I hate to see actors that I have watched in real life, only because when I see them performing the scenes they have auditioned, its sort of hard to watch them again in the film. The auditions on this DVD are Beyonc&#233 Knowles Screen Test, Anika Noni Rose Audition and Fatima Robinson Choreography Audition. First off, these aren't in HD as I think they were mainly used to show people the idea of what these creative types had in mind for their jobs. They really aren't that long but they served to explore where these characters began in regards to where they ended up in the finished film. I sadly, didn't have time to really go through the Fatima Robinson Choreography Audition, but I plan to watch it the next time I screen this movie. I think Paramount did a very good job trying to make this Blu-ray DVD release feel just as big (and important) as when the movie played in theaters.
THE VIDEO
2.35:1 - Aspect Ratio. 1080p High Definition. MPEG-2 compression. This movie looked terrific. I don't think I have watched a film in Blu-ray that made as much good use of colors as Dreamgirls. I have reviewed a lot of DVDs but they were older and it seems like their prints were bumped up to try and meet the standards and specifications of this next generation format. Here, this movie seems like it was shot to be brought to Blu-ray disc. The colors were so clear and sharp, I would recommend this film to anybody who is a home theater enthusiast. I don't care if you hate musicals, if you hate dance numbers, if you want to see what Blu-ray disc can do you would be wise to watch this movie in this format.
THE AUDIO
English Dolby Digital 5.1 - Surround Mix. Everything about the audio seems intent on drawing you that much more into the film. From the way the instruments are layered on top of one another, to how the singers sound when they are given a chance to shine, I don't really like musicals and I was even caught up in the power of what was being put across on screen. Everything felt really full to me. I find that with these Blu-ray discs, if you don't have your speakers appropriately set up around your house you can be in a lot of trouble. You might be missing a lot of the impact that a DVD like Dreamgirls offers.
THE PACKAGE
The three Dreamgirls have their bodies silhouetted by the fiery, orange glow of lights on this front cover. In fact, from what I recall, this was the same image that was used as the one sheet for this movie when it played theatrically. The back cover showcases some images from the film, a description of what Dreamgirls is about, a Special Features listing, a cast list and system specs. There's nothing that is that amazing about this packaging, but something tells me that once the studios decide which format has won the current war, that is when they will probably incorporate more bells and whistles into the packaging of these releases.
THE FINAL WORD
All in all, I was impressed by how much I liked Dreamgirls. Anybody who follows my reviews knows that I really don't care for musicals. For some reason, I can take when there's a movie about dancing, but if you combine singing with that something about it really loses me. What I think I liked most about this film is how Bill Condon messed with the tone and structure. This movie is a musical but it isn't always a musical. It seems to be like two films that have been meshed into one. Also, Condon has done a fine job examining how creative things usually start off with very pure intentions. Then money, the ultimate corrupter, comes into play, people start getting success and all of the sudden things change for the worse.

What isn't usually talked about when we discuss this movie is just how dead on it looks at the music business, relationships and the precarious nature of fame and fortune. Dreamgirls shows us what happens when people are forced to pay the ultimate price to attain what they dream.

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