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Bams' review of


Chicago (2002)
Rated PG-13; running time 100 minutes
Studio: Miramax Films
Genre: Musical
Seen at: Celebration Cinema (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Official site:
IMDB site:
Music by: John Kander (composer), Fred Ebb (lyrics)
Written by: Bill Condon (based on the Broadway musical, and a 1926 dramatic play)
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Cast: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, Dominic West, Lucy Liu

Review Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003

(click here to skip to this movie's rating)

Boy, am I glad I haven't yet turned in my final "Best/Worst of 2002" list; Chicago just shot up the list with a bullet. Uh, no pun intended.

THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
"In Chicago, murder is a form of entertainment." And when you have not one, but two, "entertainers" on your hands...well bub, you've got yourself a show!

In 1920's Chicago, aspiring chanteuse Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) gets herself in a spot when she offs her lying lover Fred Caseley (Dominic West). When her husband Amos (John C. Reilly) fails to back up Roxie's story, prosecutor Martin Harrison (Colm Feore) seizes on the opportunity to make Headlines and sends her away to The Big House, pursuant to murder charges (and, if all goes well for him, a hangin'!). Coincidentally, she lands in the same prison as Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a more well-known singer who just happens to have offed her lover and his lover: her sister/partner ("He Deserved It!", or so the song goes).

Through connections Kelly has with greedy prison matron Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), the infamous Velma enjoys the services of shyster Billy Flynn (Richard Gere). The charming Flynn's strength lies in his ability to pull all the strings (literally, in one notable number) of an unwitting press and public, giving them the old razzle dazzle they clamor for so much. Flynn is nothing if not an opportunist; when Roxie's case grabs more headlights than Velma's, Kelly finds herself Yesterday's News - a position in which she's not very fond of being. But Roxie's no demure wallflower; she is as ruthless as is Flynn - and she's determined to keep her place in the sun, by any means necessary.

Like the man said, this ain't your father's oldsmobile. Wipe any memories of the dismal movie adaption that was A Chorus Line, right out of your mind. Chicago, my friend, is the real deal.

Granted, I'm a long-time fan of musicals; and it takes something way off-kilter (like, say, Moulin Rouge) to make me actively dislike a film in that genre. But Chicago is Something Else Entirely. Filmed in a way that I can only describe as "split personality", I loved how director Rob Marshall didn't allow the traditional staged sequences to distract from the "real", more movie-like, part. Indeed, each part complimented the other; the fantasy sequences made the "real-life" tale more fun to follow, and the reality sequences made the fantasy song-and-dance scenes more tolerable to an audience generally too young to appreciate full-blown musicals the way they used to be made. In this, Marshall took good advantage of the few strengths motion pictures have over the stage.

Marshall had help from a top-notch cast, chief amongst them Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere. I was a bit skeptical about their singing and dancing chops when I first learned about this production, but was pleasantly surprised to see each of them hold their own, and then some. While Gere won't ever be mistaken for Astaire or Kelly, his charm more than made up for his lack of hoofing skillz. Zellweger and Zeta-Jones, on the other hand, were superb - without the "...for movie stars" modifier tacked on. I got a kick out of the funny "disclaimer" about who sang and danced for the threesome, in the end credits.

The supporting cast members were quite pleasing as well; Queen Latifah and Christine Baranski (as reporter Mary Sunshine) hit all the right notes, especially where their respective characters got their share of the movie's spotlight. Somebody just oughta go get a statue for John C. Reilly right now. Yes, we've seen him play this type of character in the past; but there's few better at it than Reilly, who strikes me as being in a class with the likes of Jack Lemmon in playing characters that you can't help but want to hug, without them even trying. And though his role is more ethereal than are the others', Taye Diggs' narrator provided one of the wittiest moments in the movie (watch - or more correctly, listen - for what he says when Velma tries to convince the jailed Roxie to partner up with her).

Add to all this the razzle of a rockin' musical score, the dazzle of eye-popping cinematography, and a clever but fun poke at the cult of celebrity, and you have yourself one helluva show. I truly hated seeing the end credits roll, I enjoyed being captivated this movie that much. I can't wait for it to actually come here to Podunkville; I'll be there on opening day. Again.

Adjectives were always my weakness; but let me try a few descriptors for the experience that is Chicago: Awesome. Breathtaking. Stunning. Magic. And that's just for starters...

CHICAGO:   green

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And that's the way I see it.

Rose "Bams" Cooper
3BlackChicks Review™
Copyright Rose Cooper, 2003
EMAIL:    ICQ: 7760005

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More 3BlackChicks™ review(s) for this week:
(movies reviewed through 1/3/03):
Bams' reviews:
Chicago | About Schmidt

Cass' reviews:
Chicago | Real Women Have Curves | Two Weeks Notice

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