I haven't seen Dreamgirls since its release last Christmas, but after sitting down to watch the DVD, which is arriving in stores tomorrow, I pretty much stand by my original opinion -- that the film is a solid B+ as a musical, but didn't exactly have the dramatic heft or originality to be in consideration for the Oscar. Looks like the Academy agreed with me. For those who still haven't seen it, Dreamgirls follows a trio of 60s singers, modeled on The Supremes, as they climb to the top, then fracture over love, money and fame, and then attempt to find success on their own. There are memorable songs, including Jennifer Hudson's signature "I Am Telling You I Am Not Going," and Beyonce Knowles' "Listen" towards the end of the film, and the film finds an interesting way to blend musical numbers together with the traditional style of movie musicals. If you are swept up in the story, you might not even notice the moment when that wall is broken and the actors start communicating to each other through songs instead of words.
Fans will be happy to know that the DVD is no slouch -- it's two discs, packed with a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a whole slate of extended and alternate scenes and some more interesting things that you rarely see. My favorite one a series of 'pre-visualization sequences' which means enhanced storyboards that are played in a slide-show sequence along with what I think is an early reading of the script pages. It serves as sort of an animated forerunner to the eventual scene that will be shot, and was probably extremely helpful to the director in setting up some of the musical sequences. In addition to the storyboard-style presentations -- and htere are several of them -- there are also dress rehearsals included, with stand-ins doing the singing and dancing. Some of these sequences even combine the rehearsal with the storyboard sequence, like the one for the "Cadillac Car" number. After watching that one, it seems like most of the hard work of this film was done before the actors even stepped on stage.
Another interesting feature is what purports to be genuine audition footage of some of the actresses. Beyonce Knowles' screentest is a solo musical number in full costume, on an intimate stage with just a spotlight behind her. There's no talking or anything, just her musical performance, but its still interesting that they would release something like that on the DVD. Another screentest, for Anika Noni Rose, is also included. This one is not as professionally staged -- no makeup, no set, just Rose standing in front of what's basically an office setup and being asked to perform one of the numbers. She still gives it a 100 percent effort, through, waving her hands around and walking out of the camera range a couple of times. After she finishes her number, she turns and defiantly walks away from the camera, receiving some spontaneous applause from the casting director and her people. I'd like to see more DVDs include audition tapes as part of their features, although most actors would probably scream bloody murder at having something like that included, so don't hold your breath.
As for the behind-the-scenes features, the best one is one that focuses on the editing of the film. We get to meet the film's editor and get some information on his editing setup and how he goes about putting together some of the film's musical numbers. For anyone who is interested in editing, this is really something to watch, because it gives you a lot of insight into how a complicated production like this one is handled in the editing suite. There's another featurette that focuses on the film's costume design, which didn't interest me as much, but if costumes are your thing, then maybe it's for you.As for the more traditional 'making of' style featurettes, there's one big one that's basically broken up into a lot of different chapters -- you can watch the whole thing interrupted or surf through the scenes that look most interesting. I would say the Dreamgirls DVD is a success -- it certainly doesn't cheat the fans like a lot of high-profile films that hold off the good extras for a double-dip.