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Chicago: The Razzle-Dazzle Edition DVD Review

"Chicago" movie poster Chicago

Theatrical Release: December 27, 2002 / Running Time: 113 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Rob Marshall / Writers: Bill Condon (screenplay), Maurine Dallas Watkins (play); Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb (book of musical play)

Cast: Renee Zellweger (Roxie Hart), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Velma Kelly), Richard Gere (Billy Flynn), Queen Latifah (Matron Mama Morton), John C. Reilly (Amos Hart), Lucy Liu (Kitty Baxter), Taye Diggs (Bandleader), Colm Feore (Harrison), Christine Baranski (Mary Sunshine), Dominic West (Fred Casely), Mύa Harrison (Mona), Deidre Goodwin (June), Denise Faye (Annie), Ekatarina Chtchelkanova (Hunyak), Susan Misner (Liz)

Songs: "Overture/And All That Jazz", "Funny Honey", When You're Good To Mama", "Cell Block Tango", "All I Care About Is Love", "We Both Reached For The Gun", "Roxie", "I Can't Do It Alone", "Mr. Cellophane", "Razzle Dazzle", "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag", "I Move On"

Buy Chicago from Amazon.com: 2-Disc Razzle-Dazzle Edition DVD • Original 1-Disc DVD • Blu-ray Disc

By Renata Joy

The movie musical emerged in the late 1920s with the advent of "talking pictures." While the films of the silent era could cover a wide range of genres from drama to comedy and even a bit of soundless dancing, a full-fledged musical, like those performed live on stage, was a domain exclusive to talkies.
Thus, throughout the following decades, movie musicals were created in abundance and audiences ate them up. And then, somewhere in the late 1960s to mid '70s, the golden age of the movie musical ended. The format didn't vanish completely, however those that were made never became quite as popular as their predecessors and the genre became more suitable to animated films.

Many credit Baz Luhrmann for breathing life back into the movie musical with his fast-paced spectacle of spectacles Moulin Rouge! in 2001. For the most part, it garnered positive reviews and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Picture of the Year, losing, however, to A Beautiful Mind. It had been twenty-two years since another live-action musical had been nominated for the Academy's highest honor - namely 1979's All That Jazz, which was directed by Bob Fosse, a well-known choreographer both on stage and in film. This brings us to Chicago.

Fosse, who provided choreography for the original Broadway production as well as collaborated on the book, had been in talks to direct a film version up until his death in 1987. Alas, all seemed hopeless until Rob Marshall, who had previously done choreography for The Wonderful World of Disney's productions of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella and Annie (which he also directed), came into the picture. With his plan to film the story as seen through the eyes (and imagination) of protagonist Roxie Hart, he won the role of director, a position that many thought would never be replaced.

Richard Gere is perplexed that even the microphone can't strengthen his singing voice. As Velma Kelly, Catherine Zeta-Jones smolders the screen with awesome eyeliner "And All That Jazz."

Renιe Zellweger fills the shoes of Chicago's leading heroine, an ex-chorus girl who maintains an unhappy and selfish existence in a low-grade apartment with her devoted mechanic husband Amos (John C. Reilly). Always aspiring for stardom, Roxie becomes involved with furniture salesman Fred Casely (Dominic West) who apparently has connections in the entertainment industry. Either that, or he wants to get it on with the cute blonde. When Roxie discovers that it's the latter, Casely becomes dead by means of gunshot wounds, while she is whisked away to the Crook County jail under the guardianship of Matron Mama Morton (played by a very busty Queen Latifah).

Also serving time is starlet Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta Jones), who has been accused of murdering both her husband and scene-sharing sister before a performance one night. What follows is the struggle between Roxie and Velma to avoid the death penalty by gaining attention over one another and becoming as beloved as possible by the public. Representing both in their schemes is ritzy lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), who has a flair for (literally) dancing around the courtroom.

The storyline is admittedly a bit flimsy, but it is the songs and lively performances that make Chicago what it is. The musical numbers contain just the right blend of singing and dancing so that the people in the audience who enjoy watching a performer burst into song will find themselves completely satisfied, while the dance aficionados will also be much entertained. All in all, the film is fast-paced, full of energy, and an absolute delight.

If "Talledega Nights" does well in theaters next week, perhaps "Mr. Cellophane" won't be quite as good a name for John C. Reilly... Oh no! Billy Flynn is reading Roxie's diary! Does Velma got milk? How erroneous!

As far as performances go, Catherine Zeta Jones outshines the rest of the cast by far. Her sultry voice and exuberant stage presence are perfectly suited for her role and earned her a well-deserved Oscar win. Another notable performance is given by John C. Reilly, who not only has those inconspicuous character roles down pat,
but can also burst into a very entertaining song and dance when the occasion arises. Also worth mentioning is Queen Latifah who effortlessly makes the transition from Matron Mama Morton's real-life tough countenance to the seductive vamp of Roxie's daydreams.

The weakest links are Renιe Zellweger and Richard Gere. That is not to say they give particularly bad performances. Despite the strange screechy quality to her voice, Renιe performs quite aptly, but she does not quite pull off the glamorous role as one might hope and is disturbingly bony in many of her gorgeous 1920s outfits. It is especially when she is paired with Catherine Zeta Jones at the end when it is clear that she is the lesser performer of the two. Gere does a likeable job and is able to fit the part of Billy Flynn very well. It is his singing, however, where he fails. Especially when backed up by lavish sets, rows of chorus girls, and a booming score, his voice is incredibly weak, even overpowered by everything that is going on around him during his musical numbers. Nevertheless, he plays his role with an abundance of charm which can help one overlook his musical shortcomings.

Chicago first came out on DVD as a single-disc release in the summer of 2003, the only bonus features being the deleted song "Class", an audio commentary, and a rather flimsy behind-the-scenes featurette. Therefore fans rejoiced upon the announcement of a new "Razzle-Dazzle Edition." Initially proclaimed a three-disc set in which Disc 3 was the movie's soundtrack, the re-release was retooled and hit stores just before last Christmas as a conventional two-disc DVD set, sans soundtrack. Not only does this set include a great deal of bonus features pertaining to the film, but there is enough history about Fosse and the original stage play to please any theatre geek.

Buy Chicago: The Razzle-Dazzle Edition 2-Disc DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
DTS 5.1 (English),
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Release Date: December 20, 2005
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 (Reduced from $29.99)
White Keepcase with Embossed Slipcover
Also available in Original 1-Disc DVD
and on Blu-ray Disc


Since Chicago is a relatively new movie, it would be quite a disappointment if the picture quality was less than flawless. Fortunately, it's not. The colors are magnificently vibrant in this transfer, which presents the film in the original aspect ratio of 1:85:1. The lights of the city and stage are bright but not blinding and the darker scenes are lit up just well enough so that the entire picture can be seen, even without dimming the lights. As for audio, English speakers are given options of 5.1 channel Dolby Digital and DTS Surround, both of which sound excellent. The rear speakers are used mainly for background music and random murmuring in crowd scenes, which engulfs you in the film while at the same time avoiding those surround sound tricks that can sometimes be distracting and take you out of the movie. Obviously, DTS will be the preferred format for those who can hear it, but the Dolby track in no way fails to please either.

The on-screen text doesn't lie. That's not really Tony Butala of The Lettermen. But it looks like him. Queen Latifah and Catherine Zeta-Jones sing filthy words in the deleted musical number "Class." Queen Latifah struts her curves from three different angles in the Extended Performance of "When You're Good To Mama."


The first of Disc 1's three bonus features, "From Stage to Screen: The History of Chicago" (27:12) focuses on the theatrical counterpart to the film and its progression onto the big screen. Fans of the play will most likely be pleased by this segment, as a lot of time is spent talking about Bob Fosse and his inspirations in creating what is considered a very dark and cynical musical.

The deleted musical number "Class" (4:06), the only cut scene featured in the set, is the most welcome addition (and also the only thing to carry over from the earlier DVD release, sans commentary). This bawdy song, performed by Mama Morton and Velma Kelly, appears on the film's soundtrack but never made it into the movie itself. This is not because of its questionable language, but on account of the fact it takes away from the concept that all musical numbers are seen from Roxie's point of view. This concept is explained in further detail should you choose to view the song with commentary by Rob Marshall and Bill Condon, the screenwriter.

Also retained on this disc is the existing feature-length commentary by Marshall and Condon. As is the norm when eavesdropping on two men speaking to one another, the conversation is a bit dry, but that doesn't mean there is no information to be had. The two discuss many things such as how they came about the idea that all performances take place in Roxie's mind, which shots were their favorites, and in what parts of the movie they feel the characters are the most sympathetic.

Moving onto Disc 2, the musical performances found on the second platter are separated into three categories. First is "Extended Performance", which is basically what it sounds like. They are most valuable for those who want to see a musical number performed as it would be on stage sans cuts and varying camera angles. Next, there are three short featurettes showing Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, and Renee Zelleweger practicing and recording their own songs, respectively "All That Jazz", "All I Care About is Love", and "Nowadays". Lastly is rehearsal footage from four selected songs in which you are allowed the opportunity to see all the main stars sweat it out practicing their dance moves. You may also notice Renee's tank top rises up above her abdomen while her sweatpants ride low on her hips, which might please people who like to look at bones.

Chita Rivera reflects on her experiences as Velma. Director Rob Marshall as seen (through layers of make-up) in "An Intimate Look at Rob Marshall." Liza Minnelli and Fred Ebb enjoy a tune at the piano in a clip from "The Dinah Shore Show."

Next up is "Chita Rivera's Encore" (5:09), which follows Broadway's original Velma Kelly's experiences as she films her short cameo in the movie. She does an almost convincing job of hiding her annoyance that she was not cast as Velma in this version.

"An Intimate Look at Director Rob Marshall" (19:41) celebrates the artistic style of the theatre choreographer-turned-big time film director. There are many accolades in store, but not much intimacy. However, you do get to see Mr. Marshall dance on a number of occasions.

"When Liza Minnelli Became Roxie Hart" (13:15) looks back on a mishap surrounding Gwen Verdon (Broadway's first Roxie) and a feather which resulted in a brief stint by Liza Minelli in the role. The most entertaining part of this segment is a little over-activity on Liza's behalf upon a surprise visit from Chita Rivera in a clip from "The Dinah Shore Show."

These showgirls provided inspiration fro set design as seen in the profile of Production Designer John Myhre. Rob Marshall shows Richard Gere his staircase moves in "VH1 Behind the Movie: Chicago." Disc 1's spec-TAP-ular main menu

Following Liza with a Z's antics are brief profiles of production designer John Myrhe (6:08) and costume designer Colleen Atwood (5:50). Myrhe's segment goes through the attention to detail undertaken in designing the sets, including a near-seamless transition between real-life and imaginary settings. The discussion about Atwood provides an in-depth look at the choices that went into the costume design, featuring many a sequin and feather, plus a genuine period suit for Mr. Gere.

"VH1 Behind the Movie" (35:48) is a mildly retrospective look at the film which was presumably aired to television viewers before the movie's many Oscar wins. It is narrated by a bubbly chap in a fluffy sort of way, although the substantial amount of cast interviews and new information make up for some of the silliness.

The disc opens with a trailer for The Brothers Grimm and a Miramax 25th Anniversary montage. The menus for both discs are animated, set to jazzy music, and feature film clips melded together with front page newspaper headlines. The discs themselves are presented in a snazzy white keepcase with a funky metallic-looking silver slipcover. Inside, you'll find a booklet which gives some background on both the play and the film. It is a nice inclusion and definitely not something you see accompanying DVDs on a regular basis. Also included inside is a flyer promoting the apparently defunct Musical Magic Editions of Disney's Annie and Cinderella which are most definitely not coming to DVD Summer 2006 as advertised.

"He had it comin'!", sing the crazy women in the "Cell Block Tango" sequence. Roxie looks tiny on top of her gigantic name.


Despite a couple of (mildly) weak performances, Chicago succeeds in providing wonderful entertainment and transporting the viewer into a time of debauchery, illegal booze, and jazz, while at the same time not depressing. On the contrary, one strangely leaves a viewing of the film feeling very happy and that all is well in the world. Because of the poor treatment Chicago received on its previous DVD release, this new edition is very welcome, in particular for fans of the movie's theatrical counterpart and predecessor.

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Reviewed July 25, 2006.