Chicago directed by Rob Marshall, produced by Harvey Weinstein, written by Bill Bondon from the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, Bob Fosse and Fred Ebb, with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere and Queen Latifah. 113 minutes. Opens December 26. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
it's unfair to compare rob marshall, directing his first feature, to Bob Fosse, but it's sadly unavoidable. Chicago remains one of Fosse's signature shows, and you can see what the choreography is supposed to look like, either in revivals of the play or in Fosse's 1979 film, All That Jazz, whose musical numbers look like outtakes from Chicago. The problem here isn't that they're doing Chicago without Bob Fosse's choreography; the choreography is passable fake Fosse. It's that they're doing it without Fosse's editing. Fosse was able to reconceive the choreography for Cabaret and Sweet Charity for the screen and to find the telling detail at the right moment.
Nobody cut dance like Fosse.
Inspired by a famous murder trial from the Roaring 20s, Chicago stars Renée Zellweger as Roxie Hart, who shot her boyfriend, and Catherine Zeta-Jones as showgirl Velma Kelly, who shoots her husband and sister. The plot spins around their intertwined fates and the machinations of their slick lawyer, Richard Gere's Billy Flynn.
The numbers from the famous John Kander/Fred Ebb score are in place, and the dancing and performances are generally quite good -- surprisingly so in Zellweger's case, less surprisingly in Zeta-Jones's, because of her musical experience in England.
My trouble is with the direction. Most of the numbers are conceived as fantasy counterpoints to the story's realities, but there's no internal logic to the shifts, and Marshall seems unable to decide whether he's making a stage show or a movie.
Chicago is entertaining in spots but could have been great.