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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Chicago

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Director: Rob Marshall
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 113 Minutes
Release Date: January 2003
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Music

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

The casting for Rob Marshall's film adaptation of the Broadway musical CHICAGO might seem a little unusual at first glance, but its three stars, Ren‚e Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, put so much palpable verve into their high energy performances that one would be scared of wishing them the proverbial, "Break a leg!" lest they do. The supporting cast members (including John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah, Christine Baranski, Taye Diggs and Colm Feore) work just as hard and are just as impressive as the leads.

Zellweger and Zeta-Jones play two "killer dillers and scintillating sinners" -- the script is so much fun -- who are both on death row for crimes of passion. Richard Gere, radiating charisma like heat from a roaring fire, plays Billy Flynn, the women's lawyers. He's a supremely confident attorney, who has never lost a case for his exclusively female clientele. Although he sings "All I Care About Is Love," actually all that motivates him is his five thousand dollar fee and the limelight of grandstanding for the press. How good is he? If Jesus had come to him, with five thousand dollars of course, "Things would have turned out differently," he brags.

Although you might expect Zeta-Jones to have the headline role, Zellweger plays the central character, the slightly dim-witted Roxie Hart, a peroxide blonde with looks that rival that of Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones), the dark-haired beauty who occupies a nearby cell. Before their incarceration, Velma was a star, and Roxie was just a "2-bit talent" with big dreams. Once behind iron bars, however, Roxie begins to eclipse Velma, who hates being second best.

The beauty of the song and dance numbers aren't because of the songs themselves, but the clever way that they are integrated into the story. To illustrate Billy's ingenious legal footwork, he has a tap dance routine during a sticky moment at the big trial. Another of his apropos numbers is "Razzle-Dazzle." Trial lawyers should adore this picture.

I enjoyed every moment of this stunningly filmed production -- and yet. The only thing that nagged at my mind was a simple musing. What would Baz Luhrmann (MOULIN ROUGE) have done? I'd love to see him take a crack at CHICAGO someday. Marshall's and Luhrmann's versions could then someday make a great double feature.

CHICAGO runs 1:53. It is rated PG-13 for "sexual content and dialogue, violence and thematic elements" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, gave it ** 1/2. He liked the movie, especially the dancing and the costumes, but thought it dragged some and was a little too long.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes

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