I believe Americans love their musicals because these films allow them to magnify any emotion to a degree that under normal circumstances would have been simply too much. It's as if all outlets are opened to the maximum level with the music acting as the legitimator. Unfortunately, in Bill Condon's Dreamgirls, these exaggerations become all to translucent and unsubtle. It is a story told entirely in capital letters.
Based on Tom Eyen's 1981 Broadway musical of the same name, Dreamgirls is a tale of the rise (and fall) of a handful of black performers during the 1960s and 1970s. The account is loosely based around the career of The Supremes and the prosperity of the Motown label. However, centered around the overexerted character of Effie White (based on real-life Florence Ballard) it becomes clear quite early that Dreamgirls uses its characters and conflicts as simple platforms for bloated musical numbers and simple solutions. The tragedy of Florence Ballard is reduced to the whimpering of Effie White. I blame Jennifer Hudson's inaptitude and Bill Condon's lack of refinement equally.
The most interesting aspect of the film is Eddie Murphy's character, James Early. With this character comes a little bittersweet tenderness. He exercises something that cannot be solved with a two minute singing act, which is how Condon concludes every other plot development in his film. This way, Condon makes sure to overanalyze every emotion he has just embellished.
The musical numbers are fresh initially, but their repetitive quality will wear you out unless you are extremely stubborn. Except for the vocal performances and the visuals, the film's poor craftsmanship could only have been saved by a more relevant connection to the music history on which it is based. But Dreamgirls is more a show-off for current talent than an account of the people that inspired them. And Beyoncé Knowles never comes close to capturing anything but insipidness. Her Deene is probably not someone Arne Nćss, Jr. would have fallen for.