Chicago (2002)

(In theaters, December 2002) By the end of the very first musical number, it’s obvious that this is a triumphant return of the classical musical. Chicago isn’t as audaciously post-modern nor as self-conscious as Moulin Rouge!, but whatever go-for-broke edge it lacks doesn’t really matter when it’s so well-done. This ultra-cynical tale of profitable crime isn’t particularly complicated, but it’s told with plenty of style. Even the outrageous musical numbers are carefully integrated as being part of the characters’ imagination with what’s certainly the best editing of the year. Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere sing and (tap)dance and yes, they’re believable. What’s not so obvious are the other great supporting performances, from Queen Latifah to John C. Reilly to Colm Feore’s non-singing part. The result is pretty amazing. I wanted to clap at the end of some sequences. Who could have guessed that a musical written in the thirties would contain such biting social commentary even today? The ventriloquism/puppetry sequence alone is worth the price of admission, not to mention the “had it coming” tango, the court-circus piece or even the preposterously appropriate tap-dancing around legal arguments. No doubt about it; Chicago is a superior film that makes an effort at showing us far more than what is required to tell a good story. It’s remarkably funny, paced like an action film and surprisingly memorable. See it. Now.

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