With the right song and dance, you can get away with murder.
Musicals, to me, are one of those love-hate things. Case in point, I hate Phantom of the Opera, but love Little Shop of Horrors (Well - the movie versions at least). I can actually count the number of musicals I like on one hand and still have fingers left over; luckily, this is one of my digits.
Chicago focuses on two individuals primarily, Roxie Hart (Zellweger), the wannabe showgirl who is having an affair with Fred Casely as she believes he has the connections to get her to the top. Sadly, he lies and it's a lie that will cost him dearly as Hart, feeling very betrayed, her dreams shattered in an instant, shoots him dead in her bedroom. The second individual, Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones) is part of a headlining double act, the only problem is she apparently catches her sister with her husband and shoots them dead also. Both Kelly and Hart end up on death row, which is run by Matron Mama Morton (Queen Latifah), who for a price can help them with whatever they need, be it booze, lawyers or publicity. The lawyer that comes highly recommended would be one Billy Flynn (Gere), who has never lost a case and, as events unfold, has rather dubious methods. This being a musical, we're treated to a variety of musical numbers from arrest to trial and all points in-between and if you've never seen the show, you may still know some of the songs - such as Razzle Dazzle, a major hint really considering this versions sub-title.
So, pretty simplistic plot eh? Two women on trial for murder with a dodgy lawyer - simply summed up in one sentence. Ahhh, but then again, what a journey it is, with plenty of spectacle along the way. Sure, Richard Gere's singing voice really grates on me and Zellwegger's spoken voice isn't much better, but this movie is a lot of fun! From the opening “words” 5-6-7-8 from Taye Diggs, who plays the band leader, to the double headlining act finale, there's plenty to get your toes tapping and a couple you wish would just hurry up and end. My personal most-hated track is “All I Care About”, which is Gere solo and is just........awful. If Cindy Crawford hadn't dumped him before this, it would have been a damn good reason to. Highlights are the opening number, Cell Block Tango and When You're Good To Mama, in my opinion, but the other songs, from We Both Reached For The Gun to Mister Cellophane are all enjoyable enough, the latter with a superb John C. Riley playing his everyday man-type character so well. Heck, we even have a cameo from Lucy Liu in lingerie!
For my money though, Catherine Zeta-Jones is a revelation, once you get past the phoney American accent, she certainly outshines Zellwegger, has a better voice and simply oozes more sexuality in her role than the others, which in Chicago, is one of the prime requisites. I don't think she's been better and she may well never be either. Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, this is a lot of fun and fans of the stage show should enjoy this no end. That's not to say this is better than a stage show version - I don't think anyone could ever say that, unless it's performed as a school play, but even accounting for the awful Gere's voice, this is one of the better musicals to make it to celluloid and should certainly soften the most anti-musical persons viewpoint, if nothing else. Highly recommended.