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ISSUE 116 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/21/2003

Critic's Corner: 'Chicago' razzles and dazzles audience with star performances

By Molly Bayrd
Executive Editor

Friday, February 21, 2003

Whoever said crime doesn'’t pay never lived in 1920’s Chicago. Rob Marshall’'s exquisite cinematic rendition of “"Chicago”" proves that there is no such thing as going too far when it comes to achieving one’'s eternal fame.

Even murder, deceit, and lies are not out of bounds in this musically-infused drama.

Renee Zellweger, who shines as the besottedly ambitious Roxie Hart, is the epitome of youthful naivety with her blonde bob and pouting lips. As Roxie, an overzealous and eager-to-please singer-wannabe, Zellweger capably displays her heretofore unknown musical talents.

After shooting her deceiving lover and forcing her husband (John C. Reilly) to hire an infallible lawyer (Richard Gere), Roxie earns herself a name in the papers and a place in the hearts of Chicago’s citizens. Obsessed with preventing herself from becoming another washed up flash-in-the-pan, Roxie will do anything (from perjury to a feigned pregnancy) to prevent her success from fading. Most of the movie'’s comedy lies in Roxie'’s outrageous attempts at preserving her fame.

Even more fantastic is Gere, who, as the theatrically-inclined defense attorney Billy Flynn, weasels his way into the movie'’s courtroom limelight. He sings, tap-dances, and smirks his way to the top of this entertaining film. His performance, which garnered him a Golden Globe award for Best Actor, was dubiously shunned by the nomination panel for this year’s Oscars.

Not to be outdone by her costars, Catherine Zeta-Jones is also amazing as the conniving Velma Kelly, who fiercely competes against Roxie for press recognition. As the murderous showbiz bad girl, Zeta-Jones delivers a memorable performance; she sings and dances one step above the rest of the cast. She is sexy and practical, and pushes a strongly tactical fame-acquiring game against Roxie'’s childish schemes.

An adaptation of the long-running Broadway show, “"Chicago”" is the most eye-popping spectacular to hit the silver screen since Baz Luhrmann’'s 2001 Oscar-nominated “"Moulin Rouge.”"

“"Chicago”" succeeds where “Moulin Rouge” was lacking, however. It has a much more salient plot and a stronger, jazzier score. Songs like "“Razzle Dazzle,"” "“We Both Reached for the Gun,"” and "“When You'’re Good to Mama"” are a testament to the movie'’s huge success. It has garnered 13 Oscar nominations and received three Golden Globes at this year'’s ceremony, including Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy.

Notable performances are delivered by John C. Reilly as Amos, Roxie’s pitiably bumbling husband, and Queen Latifah as Matron “Mama” Morton, the won’t-take-flack-from-nobody prison warden. Latifah'’s performance is one of her best; she has finally found the role that does justice to her ample musical talent.

As “"Chicago"” proves, fame in the Windy City comes and goes, but show business prevails through thick and thin. The heart of the biz lies in the Vaudevillian fantasy sequences in which most of the musical numbers are performed by the film’s all-star cast. Glamorous costumes, enticing showgirls and glitzy dance numbers are brilliantly juxtaposed with mundane courtroom and prison scenes. Bill Condon has struck gold with his screenplay.

There’'s no business like show business, and there’'s no better road to fame than crime. By blurring the line between entertainment and self-aggrandizement, “Chicago” proves that a little white lie never hurt anyone (and could actually make you a star!).

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