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'Chicago' roars onto DVD
By Bruce R. Miller, Journal staff writer

"Chicago" was not more inventive than "Moulin Rouge." It didn't really revive the movie musical (do you see another one on the horizon?) and Renee Zellweger probably shouldn't have played a leading role.

That said, it's a marvelous movie that deserved to win last year's Best Picture Oscar.

Director Rob Marshall didn't just figure out a way to make music work on screen. He showed how to make audiences care about unlikable characters. Even better, he gave Catherine Zeta-Jones a career-making role and Richard Gere a career-reviving one.

In the DVD (now in stores), he also gives Queen Latifah another show-stopping turn -- one that might have given her a better shot at the Oscar Zeta-Jones won. (It's included in the "extras" section and it's a real winner.)

"Chicago" works because it doesn't weigh on audiences the way most musicals do. Its numbers are such a part of the fabric, they don't stand out like a crooked zipper.

Marshall emphasizes the film's story, then sweetens it with the music -- the key move. While Zellweger and Gere are hardly singers, Zeta-Jones and Latifah bring down the house. Together, they're unforgettable.

According to the story -- one that has been around almost as long as the movies -- prisoners were once the celebrities of America. They attracted considerable attention and profitable post-trial careers.

When Zellweger is charged with murdering her boyfriend, she's put into play with other front page floozies. That riles Zeta-Jones who sees her crown slipping. How the women manipulate each other (through their attorney, played by Gere) provides the fun of "Chicago."

What makes it even better is the subtle ways Marshall makes reference to today's culture. The story is relevant only because so many notorious contemporary figures manage to eke out lucrative television careers. (Monica Lewinsky, anyone?)

While this "Chicago" doesn't have the same legs as the recent Broadway revival, it does move.

Best of all? It's a musical for people who don't like 'em.

Turn it on and you just might be hooked.

Also this week:

"Bowling for Columbine": Although it won the Oscar for best documentary, this wasn't Michael Moore's best work. That's still "Roger and Me," his look at the deterioration of Flint, Mich. "Columbine" tackles gun control and, in the process, splatters more than a few with its messy storytelling. Some of the information bears questioning; some of the motives are unclear. Still, Moore knows how to tell a story. When he goes after a large retailer (taking people injured by guns to its corporate headquarters), we know something's going to happen. His visit with Charlton Heston (the president of the National Rifle Association) sounds better than it actually is. When Heston walks away, it's almost as if Moore has become the kind of bully he seeks to deflate. "Columbine" takes aim at the Bush administration and fires some very big guns. It's not as clean as a New York Times editorial, but it certainly delivers a point of view.

"The Kid Stays in the Picture": Like "Bowling for Columbine," this documentary about the life of producer Robert Evans says plenty with the stuff that's left out. Evans inflates his career to head-busting proportions, but he's fun to listen to. If you hear him tell the story, he's the genius behind "The Godfather," "Chinatown" and just about every important film made in the '70s. Because he needs visuals to support his claim, there's only a Golden Globes show to back him up. That alone says plenty. Nonetheless, Evans is like a good cocktail party conversationalist. He talks a good game, but you know he's full of it.

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