Talent that floods off the screen and leaves you ecstatically drenched in emotion and street wit. That's what Dreamgirls, a brash heartbreaker of a musical, provides for most of its swift and enthralling 131 minutes. It's there every second Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy take the screen. And it's there whenever writer-director Bill Condon unites music and storytelling in a torrent of imagery that revives both the social tumult of the 1960s and the glorious pop culture that grew out of it.
Jamie Foxx and Beyonce Knowles are the top-billed stars, but Hudson and Murphy are the heart and soul-man of this movie. Hudson plays Effie, the powerhouse lead singer, with seat-of-the-pants intuition. Effie thrusts her trio the Dreamettes into the limelight at a Detroit talent contest. But later her lover and the group's manager, Curtis (Foxx), restyles them as the svelte Dreams - with the more conventionally lovely and slender Deena (Knowles) at the center. Murphy plays James Thunder Early, the sizzling rhythm and blues star that Curtis uses to school the Dreams as backup singers, then ignores when his gutsy style becomes passe.
Dreamgirls (DreamWorks) Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover. Directed by Bill Condon. Rated PG-13. Time 131 minutes.