DreamWorks Pictures / Paramount Home Entertainment DVD Review

Dreamgirls: 2-Disc Showstopper Edition DVD Review

Dreamgirls (2006) movie poster Dreamgirls

Theatrical Release: December 25, 2006 / Running Time: 130 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Bill Condon

Cast: Jamie Foxx (Curtis Taylor, Jr.), Beyoncé Knowles (Deena Jones), Eddie Murphy (James "Thunder" Early), Danny Glover (Marty Madison), Anika Noni Rose (Lorrell Robinson), Keith Robinson (C.C. White), Sharon Leal (Michelle Morris), Hinton Battle (Wayne), Jennifer Hudson (Effie White), Mariah Wilson (Magic), Yvette Cason (May), Ken Page (Max Washington), Ralph Harris (M.C.), Michael-Leon Wooley (Tiny Joe Dixon), Loretta Devine (Jazz Singer), John Lithgow (Jerry Harris), John Krasinski (Sam Walsh), Alexander Folk (Ronald White), Esther Scott (Aunt Ethel), Jaleel White (Talent Booker)

Songs: "I'm Lookin' For Something", "Goin' Downtown", "Takin' the Long Way Home", "Move", "Fake Your Way to the Top", "Cadillac Car", "Steppin' to the Bad Side", "Love You I Do", "I Want You Baby", "Family", "Dreamgirls", "Heavy", "It's All Over", "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", "Love Love Me Baby", "I'm Somebody", "When I First Saw You", "Patience", "I Am Changing", "Perfect World", "I Meant You No Harm / Jimmy's Rap", "Lorrell Loves Jimmy", "Family (Reprise)", "Step On Over", "I Miss You Old Friend", "One Night Only", "One Night Only (Disco)", "Listen", "Effie White Wins", "Hard to Say Goodbye", "Dreamgirls (Finale)", "When I First Saw You (Duet)"

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By Aaron Wallace

After Moulin Rouge! was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in 2001 and Chicago took home the honor in 2002, movie musicals seemed to be all the rage. The steady stream of musical hits that many expected to follow never came, though. One stage-to-screen adaptation after another flopped and as quickly as they had been revived, musicals again became passé.

But then last December came Dreamgirls, the much-anticipated big-screen adaptation of the classic '80s Broadway hit. As if its "I'm Not Going" anthem was directed at Hollywood itself, the movie marked a long-awaited triumph for the movie musical
-- its first theatrical success since Chicago. Earning an impressive $103 million at the domestic box office and a cavalcade of awards that included eight Oscar nominations, two wins, and the Golden Globe for Best Picture, Dreamgirls and its all-star cast have generated a lot of favorable buzz.

The movie tells the story of three young starlets -- Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles), Effie White (Jennifer Hudson), and Lorrell Robinson (Anika Noni Rose) -- who together comprise the Dreamettes, a wannabe girl group of the 1960s. Their rise to eventual fame is traced from talent shows to a career-launching back-up gig with R&B sensation James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy) to the top of the pop charts as the most popular act in the world. With fame comes betrayal, though, as lead singer Effie learns when she's ousted in favor of Deena by her boyfriend and manager, Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx). Her compelling plight serves as the primary emotional plotline, supplemented by equally involving stories of adultery, forbidden love, and industrial woes.

The Dreamettes get their first real gig, singing "Fake Your Way to the Top." Effie (Jennifer Hudson) and Deena (Beyonce Knowles) face off in "It's All Over."

The story is largely based on the history of The Supremes, the real-life 1960s girl group headed up by Diana Ross, whose fame eventually eclipsed that of her partners. The Curtis Taylor, Jr. character and his Rainbow Records empire obviously come from Barry Gordy, Jr. and Motown as well. Though no one involved with the film seems willing to admit this source, its inspiration is apparent throughout the film, which deliberately draws attention to the numerous commonalities between The Supremes and the Dreams, as the fictional group comes to be known. Only in the second act does the plot significantly divert from the real-life account.

Magnificently acted, beautifully shot, and musically supreme (no pun intended), Dreamgirls is a front-runner for the best film of 2006 and one of the best films in recent history. Director and screenwriter Bill Condon has learned a lot since 2002, as this project avoids the awkwardness of Chicago and manages to go right at almost every wrong turn that his tepid Oscar winner took. The rags-to-riches story of fame has been told before and biopic period pieces are nothing new (especially this decade), but the skill and sincerity with which this entirely relatable drama is told sets it apart.

Beyoncé Knowles shows off more ability both as an actress and a singer in this film than anyone could have known she possessed, making her a strong second lead. (Not to mention, the real-life parallels between the former Destiny's Child lead and her character only make the movie all the more amusing intriguing). Eddie Murphy surprises as well, turning out an Oscar-worthy supporting dramatic role and an almost Grammy-worthy singing voice. Jamie Foxx is fully believable in his role, as is Keith Robinson as Effie's brother and the group's songwriter, C.C White. As the third Dreamgirl, Anika Noni Rose makes her obviously smaller role seem much bigger than it is, holding her own with the others. Danny Glover, Hinton Battle, Sharon Leal, and a few memorable cameos (Jaleel White, John Lithgow, John Krasinski and original Dreamgirl Loretta Devine) all deserve credit for the depth they bring to the film as well.

Effie (Jennifer Hudson) serenades her boyfriend and manager, Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Jamie Foxx) in "I Love You I Do." From Beverly Hills Cop to Miami lounge singer, Eddie Murphy's performance in Dreamgirls is not only dramatic, but also musical.

The stand-out performance, however, comes from former "American Idol" contestant Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar for this, her debut film. Hudson's screen presence is as formidable and unmatched as her stage presence,
with an ability to convey emotion and character development with each line she speaks and each note she belts out. She doesn't just act or sing, she does both at the same time, effectively stealing every scene she appears in. I would say that she earned her Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, but the truth is that she deserved the awards for Best Actress.

Dreamgirls is a musical's musical. Well over half the film is in song form, meaning that just about every scene has some element of singing woven into it. Non-musical fans needn't fret, though, as the overwhelming majority of the songs take place within the context the film. This is a movie about singers and so most of the songs come from the stage, where they make sense. There is the occasional move from dialogue to song, though. Only once does that transition feel forced and at no point does the story ever stop to make way for a song. This makes Dreamgirls something of an anomaly, as one of musicals' greatest pitfalls is their inability to advance characters or story through every song.

The songs themselves are all top-notch. All but four are taken from the original Broadway show and are coupled with amazing costumes and choreography that pay homage to the Broadway show's groundbreaking innovation in both these areas. The new compositions and score perfectly match the pre-existing songs, which have been refreshed but not betrayed by the contemporary production. From jazz to pop, R&B to rock & roll, the soundtrack runs the full course of the musical spectrum is delivered with vocal finesse by the more than capable cast. Among the standout selections are solos from Beyoncé ("Listen") and Jennifer Hudson ("Love You I Do" and "I Am Changing"), the literally spectacular "Steppin' to the Bad Side" headed by Eddie Murphy, and the super catchy title track.

But of course the song that made Dreamgirls famous is the unforgettable Act I closer, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," Jennifer Holliday's original recording of which is widely considered to be one of the greatest performances of all time. Jennifer Hudson at least fills the mighty big shoes vacated for her by the other Jennifer H. and -- in the interest of total honesty and at the risk of heresy -- takes the song to a whole new level with vocals that might out-power any that have come before it. The extended scene, which begins with a feisty ensemble number and moves into Hudson's solo, is among the most powerful this reviewer has ever seen.

Beyonce Knowles is a dead-ringer for Diana Ross in Dreamgirls' "One Night Only" disco sequence. NBC primetime titans John Lithgow ("3rd Rock From the Sun") and John Krasinski ("The Office") make a deal with Deena Jones.

The movie is more than just ear candy, though -- the eyes are treated quite nicely as well. Lighting, cinematography, set design, choreography, art direction, and costumes all converge to create one visual feast after another, each scene as vivd as a dream. In fact, just about the only Oscars this movie wouldn't have deserved would be Foreign Language Film and Animated Feature.

I can't offer unfettered praise, however, as there are a few things that don't quite work. The film's biggest problem is its pacing, which is far too fast for anyone to keep up with every plot point on their first viewing. Granted, such a problem is somewhat incumbent on any film attempting to cover a decade's worth of six characters' lives. The good news is that repeat viewings (and I've had many of them) allow viewers to uncover little nuggets of story each time along with clever bits of dialogue and suggestive glances that do so much to enrich the film but elude the first-time audience.

The other problem is a feeble attempt to ground the movie in a large cultural context, occasionally referring to the chaos of 1960s Detroit and the Civil Rights movement. This element was absent in the original play and used by the filmmakers as justification for a big-screen adaptation. While it's nice to be reminded of the American climate at the time, there isn't enough of it to feel fully realized. That said, it's easily overlooked and not exactly detrimental as-is.

In every other regard, Dreamgirls is a movie musical masterpiece. Impressive and highly re-watchable, it's definitely one to own on DVD. Fortunately, the DVD itself provides even more justification. This spring, Dreamworks Home Entertainment released the movie on both a single-disc and double-disc "Showstopper Edition" DVD. The latter is the subject of this review and its contents are divulged and explored below.

Buy Dreamgirls: 2-Disc Special Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French),
Dolby Surround (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish;
Closed Captioned
Release Date: May 1, 2007
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Black Keepcase
Also available in Single-Disc DVD and on Blu-ray Disc
Previously released on HD DVD


Dreamgirls is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen and looks positively brilliant on the screen, as is expected from any brand new film. Audio is presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that shows off the film's Sound Mixing Oscar and three Best Song nominations (along with all the other songs too). Fantastically mixed, the surround sound leaves no room for complaint. I had the opportunity to see this movie in three different theaters, all of which left me wanting more volume. That's not a problem here. The DVD invites viewers to lose themselves in the movie and its music. There's also a stereo track included, a nice and increasingly rare touch for those who don't yet have a surround sound system.

For French-speaking viewers, there is a Dolby Digital 5.1 French track, though French subtitles are only available on the Disc 2 bonus features, where no French audio track is available. For Spanish-speaking viewers, there are Spanish subtitles on both discs but no Spanish audio tracks at all.

Among Disc 1's deleted scenes is this slightly different take of Effie (Jennifer Hudson) singing "One Night Only." Beyonce Knowles stares down the camera in her music video for "Listen". Jennifer Hudson reflects on the casting process and her journey from "American Idol" to Dreamgirls.


Disc 1's features start with a set of 12 extended or alternate scenes, each of them a song sequence. They range from fairly similar to the theatrical cut to drastically different, with most falling somewhere between. It would have been possible to present a viewing option that would interweave all of these alternate scenes (and such a viewing mode is rumored for a later re-release), but as the result wouldn't be so different from the original cut, it doesn't quite seem necessary. There is a "Play All" option (36:10) but unfortunately, no audio commentaries have been made available for them.
The extended or alternate scenes are: "I'm Lookin' For Something" (2:24), "Goin' Downtown" (1:58), "Takin' the Long Way Home" (2:27), "Fake Your Way to the Top" (6:38), "Steppin' to the Bad Side" (7:26), "Heavy" (1:14), "I'm Somebody" (0:39), "I Am Changing" (4:04), "Perfect World" (1:31), "Effie, Sing My Song" (1:32), "One Night Only" (2:55), and "One Night Only (Disco Version)" (3:22).

Next is Beyoncé Knowle's music video for "Listen" (3:49), the new-to-the-movie solo that she also included on select copies of her B'Day album. The video uses appropriate footage from the film, though Beyoncé's character singing the song is not among it. Instead, the pop star appears as herself, singing the song with sass and defiance, emphasizing the lyrical content and making for a pretty good video.

Finally, there is a reel called "Previews" (5:06), which starts with an advertisement for the Dreamgirls soundtrack that features Beyoncé and only Beyoncé and then moves into the same movie trailers that play when the disc is first inserted: Shrek the Third and Norbit. All three previews play in succession but each is chapter skippable. Those who opt for the separately available single disc version get all of the above but none of the below.

The circular shot of Jennifer Hudson singing "I Am Changing" is explained in Disc 2's two-hour documentary. Director and screenwriter Bill Condon appears on many of the bonus features, here talking about the editing process in "Dream Logic." Beyonce looks the part in her screen test, included in abridged form on Disc 2.

The most important bonus feature on Disc 2 is "Building the Dream" (1:54:47), an incredible feature-length documentary on the production of the film that runs just fifteen minutes shorter than the movie itself. Constructed like a narrative, the documentary takes viewers from the planning stages to the premiere, moving through the film's production day-by-day. Remarkably in-depth, the feature covers all the ins and outs of Dreamgirls, even spending a decent amount of time on the original Broadway show. More than thirty people are interviewed,
from the director and the entire lead cast all the way down to production assistants and dancers who stood in for the cast during choreographing sessions. Like all the bonuses on this disc, the documentary tends to focus on the musical sequences, but as they comprise the bulk of the film, that's somewhat understandable. The feature is divided into nine segments, each of which can be viewed independently or as part of the "Play All" option (the latter is recommended). This is one of the best making-of documentaries I've come across and is guaranteed to fascinate fans of this movie or or movie-making in general.

The feature-length documentary is followed by three shorter featurettes that address aspects of the production not explicitly addressed in the feature: "Dream Logic: Film Editing" (4:09), "Dressing the Dreams: Costume Design" (8:21), and "Center Stage: Theatrical Lighting" (8:44). Each featurette interviews all of the relevant parties and is chock-full on information and insight. These are all areas in which Dreamgirls excels, so learning more about these achievements is a treat.

Next up are three audition recordings. The first is an abridged screen test by Beyoncé Knowles, who sings "Dreamgirls" (2:24). Anika Noni Rose then delivers her audition for the part of Lorrell by singing "Ain't No Party" (2:09), one of the few songs from the Broadway show that surprisingly did not make it to the movie. Finally, Fatima Robinson's audition for choreographer features a dance team showing off the moves she planned for "Steppin' to the Bad Side" (6:20). All three of these are really cool to see and more of the same would have been nice, especially Jennifer Hudson's screen test, the obvious missing piece that is confirmed to exist elsewhere on the DVD.

Anika Noni Rose auditions with "Ain't No Party", a powerful song that sadly didn't make it to the movie. Dancing stand-ins for The Dreams appear as part of the previsualization sequence for "Fake Your Way to the Top." The Stepp Sisters open the film, as depicted here in a storyboard still from the Talent Show art gallery.

There are seven "Previsualization Sequences", which pieced together storyboard art, choreography footage, and select transitional shots in final form in order to give the filmmakers an idea of what they would be working with. All are set to the final recordings of the music with temporary actors dubbing the speaking roles. The included scenes are: "The Talent Show" (9:35), "Fake Your Way to the Top" (6:57), "Cadillac Car" (3:01), "Steppin' to the Bad Side" (8:24), "I Want You Baby" (2:45), "Heavy" (1:46), and "Hard to Say Goodbye" (4:29).

Finally, there are several extensive art galleries. Inside Storyboards, one finds the complete storyboard sequence, still-by-still, for ten scenes: "The Talent Show" (234), "Fake Your Way to the Top" (181), "Cadillac Car" (68), "Steppin' to the Bad Side" (124), "Family" (34), "Heavy" (27), "I Meant You No Harm/Jimmy's Rap" (162), "Red Carpet" (48), "Hard to Say Goodbye" (57), and "Dreamgirls Finale" (57). After that, there are two concept art galleries: Costume Designs (77) and Production Designs (15), as well as an Art Department Archive (31) that houses the faux album covers and tour posters used in the movie. All that adds up to an astounding 1,115 stills! A "Play All" option and Publicity gallery would have made this the perfect set, but with more than a thousand images, it's hard to complain.

There is also an Easter Egg on Disc 2. In the Auditions And Screen Tests menu, Effie's microphone stand will light up when selected. Press "Enter" and you'll be shown behind-the-scenes footage of cast and crew goofing off on-set and taking in the vocal glory of Jennifer Hudson's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (1:06).

Naturally, there's plenty more that could have been included but wasn't. Most notably, audio commentaries, Jennifer Hudson's screen test, trailers, and the Dreamgirls medley performed at this year's Oscars would have made the perfect set. Even with those absences in mind, however, the bonus features are rather comprehensive and certainly much more than even most Oscar winning films get.

The Dreamgirls DVD main menu appears on Discs 1 and 2, providing plenty of opportunity to watch this fun little montage in full. The primary submenu on Disc 2 presents the Special Features, spread across two pages.


The main menu is a fast-moving, well-edited montage of clips from the movie set to an abridged version of "Dreamgirls" and is used for both discs. All of the sub-menus are silent, still screens.
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The Scene Selection screen presents twenty-five scenes, all but one of which are labeled by the song that appears within them (which tells you something about the role music plays in the movie).

Both discs are housed in a rather nondescript black keepcase with no slipcover and no inserts, save for one small flyer. The cover art proudly advertises the film's many Golden Globes and Academy Awards. The discs are simple -- a solid, silvery gray with the title in transparent lettering -- but classy. When Disc 1 is inserted, a non-skippable Dreamworks logo plays, followed by chapter-skippable previews for Shrek the Third and Norbit, two other Dreamworks films that also happen to star Eddie Murphy.

Curtis (Jamie Foxx) protects Effie (Jennifer Hudson) from the chaos of 1960s Detroit. The Dreams -- Effie, Deena, and Lorrell (left to right) -- sing their signature song, "Dreamgirls"!


Dreamgirls is one of those special films in which everything you love about movies seems to fall in place. Acting, singing, and filmmaking are all in a master class, making this movie a must-see. A full platter of bonus features that includes a two-hour documentary, an image gallery with more than a thousand stills, and tons of behind-the-scenes goodies make this DVD a must-own. I'll resist the temptation to close with a cheesy one-liner like "Dreamgirls is a dream movie and I don't want to wake up" and simply urge everyone to do themselves the favor of watching this classic-to-be.

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Reviewed May 7, 2007.

Text copyright 2007 UltimateDisney.com. Images copyright 2006/2007 DreamWorks/Paramount. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.