Dreamgirls (DreamWorks) (HD DVD & Blu-ray)
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, and Beyoncé Knowles
Adapted from the successful and long-running 1981 Broadway musical, this is basically a roman à clef about the African-American experience within the music industry (primarily the quasi-history of The Supremes) circa the 1960’s and 1970’s and set to a dynamic score. Much as the Broadway musical did, this film covers a broad range of popular musical styles ranging from bluesy R&B and Doo-Wop to later styles of the Motown sound, funk and culminating in the disco and dance driven eras. It’s a feast for the ears, just as the film is, in many ways, a feast for the eyes, truly evoking the glorious, and sometimes acrimonious, past.
The film is expertly and deftly directed by Bill Condon and features top-notch art direction, set design and costuming, but the performances really hold this thing together, and the standouts are easily Eddie Murphy in his Oscar ® nominated turn as James Thunder Early (shades of James Brown and Marvin Gaye) and American Idol newcomer (and multiple-award winner) Jennifer Hudson (in the Florence Ballard inspired role of Effie White). It’s a great film for those that love Broadway musicals and should be part of any hi-def library that includes Chicago and Phantom of the Opera.
The HD DVD and Blu-ray releases offer the same two-disc Showstopper Edition that the standard DVD release offers, so many of the extra features are the same across the board. The video is transferred in an MPEG-2 codec with resolution at 1080p. The aspect ratio is 1.85 widescreen and overall the image looks sharp, very colorful and vibrant and the details (especially of the sets, costumes and makeup) are, for the most part, extraordinary looking in hi-def.
Audio on the Blu-ray side is nothing to write home about for a hi-def release: Dolby Digital 5.1 surround (at 640kbps!! For a musical?!? You’ve got to be kidding.). Audio on the HD DVD release simply blows the quality of the Blu-ray disc away: (at 1.5mpbs sample rate as opposed to the Blu-ray disc’s shocking 640kbps rate). Subtitles offered in English, Spanish and French. The non-hi-def features are spread out to the second disc and give you 12 extended musical sequences, a music video (“Listen”) by Beyonce Knowles and a Dreamgirls soundtrack promo.
You get a fluffy making of documentary called Building The Dream and you get (the best feature yet) original auditions and screen tests as well as some pre-visualization sequences. There’s a few other additional featurettes included: Dream Logic and Dressing The Dreams. It’s a good package for those who enjoyed the film and musical.