If you look into movie musical history, you will notice one large thing. You will notice one large gap from, roughly, the mid 1980s until the early 2000s. You’ll see that Walt Disney animated films filled a gap that movie musicals were leaving. I suppose that you could qualify these films as “movie musicals”, but they weren’t movie musicals in the traditional sense. They were animated and they were made for children. The movie musical seemed to have disappeared. That is, until 2002, when Chicago arrived.
Chicago is a musical about Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, two murderesses on death row trying to, well, not die, by using their fame to make a name for themselves. The musical has been around since the 1970s. But, this was a tricky one to translate to screen. How do you smoothly insert the songs within the realm of film? Honestly, I think that is one of the geniuses of this film. Bill Condon, the screenwriter, and Rob Marshall, the director, cleverly made most of the songs happen within the character’s heads. So, it didn’t really seem weird when all of these people began breaking out into song because, well, it was all just in Roxie Hart’s head.
The cast of this film is phenomenal. It is just loaded with so much talent, first and foremost, Renee Zellweger as Roxie Hart and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly. Both of these women are crazy talented with amazing vocal ranges. Richard Gere plays the sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, who does a tap dancing number in the film that I am always in awe of. Queen Latifah and Christine Baranski both perform well. But, most of all, I want to talk about John C. Reilly as Amos Hart. Up until I saw this film, I had only known John C. Reilly as a comedic actor, one that I loved. (I didn’t see his dramatic roles until later in life. And, if you haven’t seen him in a dramatic role, sweet Jesus, what are you waiting for? He’s incredible.) He perfectly portrays Roxie’s often forgotten husband, Amos. His rendition of “Mr. Cellophane” makes me sad every single time I hear it.
This film perfectly intertwines the musicals of the 1930s and 1940s, by having almost all of the musical numbers take place on a stage, in front of an audience. But, it so cleverly updates it to modern times. And this film, along with Moulin Rouge and even 8 Mile you could say, brought back the movie musical and it hasn’t left since.
Now, please enjoy my two favorite numbers in the film:
Lawyer Billy Flynn tap dancing around the witness.
Amos Hart ripping your heart out.
Okay. Three favorite numbers. Because I could never forget The Cell Block Tango, and the scarfs being used in place of blood and HOW GENIUS THAT WHOLE NUMBER IS.