The first musical to win Best Picture since 1969, Chicago is an old-fashioned musical given new life and new breath in its updated, modern setting. This is truly a musical that gets just about everything right; it sticks closely to the core tenets of what a musical should be, and still manages to be reinventive and an excellent example of what a more modern musical should be as well. That being said, after having watched it, I can say that there is pretty much absolutely nothing for people going into this one expecting anything but a musical. I had a hard time phrasing that, so I’ll try again: most musicals have many other selling points other than the fact that its a musical; this has none.
For the musical aspect, however, this worked very well. For me, the film’s musical numbers worked because they had created a disconnect between them and the actual meat of the film; the numbers were almost all a fictionalized dream-like hallucination, a stylized fantasy world that takes place in the heads of the characters (maybe entirely Roxie), and that helped the plausibility factor of having people spontaneously break out into song – they don’t here, it’s all in their minds. This is contrasted with the gritty realism of the real world segments; if the musical score hadn’t been playing in the background of these parts, Chicago would be a really muddy and dirty satirical look at fame and what some people are willing to do and go to for it (the tagline on the poster up there sums it all up perfectly). It still is, but hey, musical numbers on top of it all. The film is also excellently choreographed and edited; the two are married together so eloquently it’s no wonder the film won the Academy Award for editing.
Still, even with the differences this works so hard to integrate into the classical musical formula, this is still a musical, so if you’re not a fan, you won’t like this one; it’s a musical at its core, and that’s the main thing it offers. The numbers are outstanding in their burlesque, vaudeville manner; think Lady Marmalade meets All That Jazz, and you’ll have a good idea towards the numbers in this film. Now, even with everything I’ve just said, I have to say, I was not as entertained with this one as I expected to be, and that coupled with the little else it offers outside the musical crowd is why I gave the film the rating I did, but if you do like musicals, and especially if you’ve found a taste for modern musicals, Chicago will almost certainly be a winner in your book.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10