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Chicago
Review written by: Alex Sandell

First off -- because I know at least a hundred of you will write in asking me if I don't come right out and say it -- I have never attended the Broadway version of the musical, Chicago, I didn't know anything more than the title of the play before they announced the film version of, Chicago, and, even though the city itself is only a 12 hour drive from my house, I haven't even been to Chicago (but a friend of mine smoked bad weed there and had hallucinations).  That said, as a Chicago and Chicago "virgin," and man about as cultured in live theater as Archie Bunker, I honestly didn't know what to expect when I went into this film.  What I got still has my head spinning (and I'm pretty sure the popcorn guy didn't spike the root beer). 

Chicago is a wild good time at the movies!  As a matter of fact, it just may be the most fun I've had at the theater watching a bunch of women dancing around in skimpy outfits while singing about the various ways they murdered the men that they loved!  The flick is fast-paced from start to finish and chockfull of so many jazzy musical numbers that you might want to sit in the front row so you can kick your feet along to the beat without knocking out the person sitting  ahead of you!

The film does the impossible in so many ways.  First and foremost, it makes Catherine Zeta-Jones, who I've never found very attractive, appear to be hot as hell (yessir, I felt some illicit tingling)!  I was drooling over her so much while watching the musical that they accidentally loaded me into the funny little van with the wheelchair access and people with really big heads, once the thing was over.  Secondly, they actually got that Renée Zellweger chick to prove she can do more than pucker her lips as though she just sucked on the world's most sour lemon while inhaling a cow fart through a beer bong.  What can she do?  Renée can sing and dance and actually "un-pucker" her lips on a semi-regular basis!  Thirdly, the film proves, once and for all, that Richard Gere isn't an unbearably terrible actor.  Okay, it doesn't do much more than prove that he can rise slightly above marginal and do a mean tap dance, but that's still pretty impressive.

Chicago is the story of Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), a club singer who just happened to murder her sister and husband when she found them fooling around behind her back.  It's also the story of Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger), who just happened to shoot and kill furniture salesman Fred Casely (Dominic West), when he "reneged" on his promise to get her a career as a Vaudeville star.  Finally, it's a story of the two meeting up in prison to deceive and help one another out, with some extra assistance from sleazy lawyer, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who has never lost a murder case when defending a woman. 

The women don't make it easy for Flynn, being that they want fame more than they want a "not guilty" verdict.  In prison a catfight develops between the two girls over which one of them is getting more press.  The pair will sink to almost any level to make the headlines.  When Roxie feels like new inmate Kitty Baxter (Lucy Liu, who is apparently the only Asian female working in Hollywood) is stealing her thunder, she feigns a pregnancy.  When Velma feels as though Roxie's feigned pregnancy is taking away from her moment in the spotlight, she decides to testify against her fellow inmate.  In the middle of all of this is Roxie's naive and innocent husband, Amos Hart (John C. Reilly) thinking that it's his kid Roxie's not really pregnant with.  Sound a little more complex than Singin' in the Rain (a fine little musical, in its own right)?  It is. 

The editing in the film by Martin Walsh is nothing short of a movie miracle.  The film snaps, crackles and pops with such dynamism that I feel sorry for Walsh when I imagine him trying to piece it all together and blend all of the hilarious social commentary and parody in with the countless song and dance numbers.  What a roller-coaster ride of a film the talented editor has put together for all of us to enjoy!  I guess I need to give some credit to Rob Marshall for his directing, Bill Condon for his writing, and the guy(s)/girl(s) who actually wrote the play, whoever they are.  Oh, and I'd also like to thank my mom, my dad, and God, whom without, none of this review would have been possible.

There is a lot to like in Chicago, even if you don't enjoy the excellent, catchy, foot-stomping, hooked-on-jazz music.  There's Matron 'Mama' Morton (Queen Latifah), the big busted broad running the big house and sucking up bribes like she needs to make mortgage payments on yet another one of her oversized bras.  There's that damn Billy Flynn, defending his floozies as though they were the second coming of O.J.  And then there's the over-zealous press.  Oh, what a tender morsel of satirical mayhem we have with these suckers! 

Watching Flynn play the paper-scrapers is a highlight of the picture.  It fits in the context of today's news, also.  Ari Fleischer ... Billy Flynn.  Billy Flynn ... Ari Fleischer.  When Flynn becomes a puppeteer and turns the press into puppets, it's one of the niftiest things ever caught on camera, and is definitely the high-point of the 2002 celluloid season.  I'll never look at a press conference in the same way again, and I was already a cynical little bastard!

The film takes swings at fame, greed, love, lust and selfishness while addressing selflessness, loneliness and one gigantic broken heart.  Working this much commentary and satire (and there's plenty more where that came from!) into a 2 hour musical that doesn't go longer than about 2 seconds without a musical number is impressive in much the same way it is when I slip into my size 32 pants and actually get them to button!  You don't think there's enough room, but somehow it all fits, even if it is a tight squeeze. 

Chicago is truly an experience to behold.  It's big, bold, boisterous and probably a bunch of other fitting "B" words that I can't think of right now!  Dance your way to the theater and check it out!  I smell lots of awards for this one.  I also smell box-office success, so it should work its way to a cinema near you, even if you do live in a little suck hole town that still flies the confederate flag or caters to Mormons. 

After reading this review, I'm sure Archie Bunker would say, "oh, jeesh, the meathead's turned himself into a fruit."  Well, if liking a flashy musical of Machiavellian Murderesses with super sexy bodies makes me a "fruit," I say, "let my fruit flag fly!" 

Wow.  Now I'm even scaring myself.  Dummy up, Meathead!   

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MOVIE POSTERS

Singin in the Rain

Catherine Zeta Jones

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Moulin Rouge

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Agree? Disagree? Feeling bored and wanna write a letter that you'll probably never get a response to?  Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com 

Text ©(Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].

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