This is a fantastic musical. From the beautifully designed sets, to the period costumes, to the show-stopping song and dance numbers, it will simply razzle-dazzle the viewer. The director and his singing and dancing troupe of stars simply pull out all the stops in this brilliantly executed musical.
The film, which provides a cynical and satirical look at fame and fortune, centers in nineteen twenties Chicago around two murderesses, Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger). Velma, who together with her sister, was a dance hall success, killed her husband and her sister when she caught them together en flagrante delicto. True to the maxim, however, that the show must go on, she goes on stage immediately after dispatching the two lovers, where she is promptly arrested.
Roxie Hart, an admirer of Velma Kelly, is married to Amos Hart (John C. Reilly), a good-hearted, regular Joe, but she longs for tabloid fame and fortune. She begins to have an affair with a man who promises that he could get her a stage gig only to find that he lied just to get her in bed. So, she ends up killing him. Her long suffering husband stands by his little woman as she is trundled off to jail to await trial. There she meets her idol, Velma Kelly, who finds her hero-worship annoying.
In the jail, Matron "Mama" Morton (Queen Latifah) reigns supreme over the inmates, accepting bribes for favors. Velma Kelly, represented by star defense attorney Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), is in tabloid heaven. Roxie Hart, longing to be in tabloid heaven as well, gets her husband to retain Billy Flynn on her behalf. Before she knows it, she, too, is in tabloid heaven, playing the media like a violin.
The legal profession also gets a cynical slap in the guise of the slimy, fast talking Billy Flynn, who looks for the best selling point rather than for the truth. He understands the thirst of the media for the perfect sound-bite and he gives it to them. Guilty or not guilty, it doesn't matter. What matters to him, as a hired mouthpiece, is the media mileage he can get for his client, as well as for himself. To that end, he is the ventriloquist, and his client is no more than his dummy.
The razzle-dazzle musical numbers move the story along. Catherine Zeta-Jones is terrific, looking impossibly beautiful and showing off her musical theatre background to great advantage with "All That Jazz" and "Cell Block Tango". Queen Latifah is outstanding as the sly and voracious Mama Morton, who goes whichever way the wind is blowing. She also has a show-stopping musical number, "When You're Good To Mama" that is simply memorable. Renee Zellweger, though not a professional singer or dancer, shows that she can sing and dance with the best of them.
The men also shine in this musical. John C. Reilly, as Roxie's long-suffering husband, also has a terrific number, "Mister Cellophane", that is truly heart rending and poignant, as well as metaphoric. Richard Gere gamely rises to the occasion in his first musical, making the slick Billy Flynn character an integral part of the film with his "Razzle Dazzle" number and his tap dancing.
I love this top notch, clever film, finding it hugely entertaining. It deserves every one of its six Academy Awards, including that for "Best Picture". Director Rob Marshall deserves kudos for this brilliantly directed, seamlessly edited, musical masterpiece. While it is a fairly faithful screen adaptation of Bob Fosse's Broadway musical, it has Rob Marshall's contemporary imprimatur on it. It is a film of which he can be justly proud. Bravo!