If one goes to ‘Chicago’ expecting the ‘ol razzle dazzle, then you will get it – nothing more and nothing less. Let that be a warning too, if you are really expecting anything more than a jolly good piece of entertainment, you will simply be left wanting.
‘Chicago’ does the deed as a musical adaptation, it won’t ever go down as one of the greats but it can certainly hold an audience. The trouble is that the film’s format leaves a great deal to be desired and the casting too may not of been, lets say based exactly on talent.
It is pretty clear from the start that this film is attempting a kind of surreal Jazz feast set in the mind of the lead character Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) who imagines reality as one giant performance. Sounds fun right? Well it can be! Some scenes from the cell block tango to We Both Reached for the Gun are quite magnificent and reason enough to justify the price of admission, but the continual excitement factor seems a little underdone.
The first half hour of the film is really underwhelming. Catherine Zeta Jones as Velma Kelly gives an average performance alongside Zellweger, one imagines they were cast as `big names’ rather than for pure talent. These two do feature in the films best moments, but they are constantly upstaged by the film’s other roles. Richard Gere as Billy Flynn is clearly not a great singer, but he pulls his job off to perfection in comparison to the lead women. John C. Reilly as Amos Hart steals his own lime light in patches, and at some points you even wish he could have more of it, he gives his side of the story far more emotion than any other. Besides these individual standouts, I found that most of the smaller roles felt far more in place than the stories leads.
Still as a rendition of a musical of days gone by it settles into a very 50s rhythmic style of filmmaking. After the initial hurdle and pretty much about the same time as Cell Block Tango, the film lightens up and kicks into full gear. From here on in most of the films flaws can be forgiven due to the entertainment value. Still, for some, the ending leaves more than a few things to be desired. Perhaps a little too much razzle-dazzle, and not enough of the flare that you get from the stage version.
As a film, ‘Chicago’ is not better than the stage version and it does leave the audience wanting more. Not because they didn’t want it to end, but because it failed to deliver. It is entertaining however and will satisfy the most.