Set in the 1960s, singers Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), and Deena (Beyoncé Knowles) are discovered at a local talent show by ambitious manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx). The trio known as "the Dreamettes" is soon offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of opening for popular singer James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy). Subsequently molded by Taylor and propelled into the spotlight as "the Dreams," the girls find their bid for the big time taking priority over personal friendship, and begin to realize that the true cost of fame may be higher than any of them ever anticipated. DREAMGIRLS features a stellar cast including Academy Award® winner Jamie Fox***, global superstar Beyoncé Knowles, Golden Globe® winner Eddie Murphy, and Jennifer Hudson in her breakout, award-winning role.
As we already have some great coverage for Dreamgirls and the 2-Disc Showstopper Edition, I encourage you to go back and give that excellent review a read.
Ten years is a long time when you look at the landscape of theatrical and home distribution of movies. If a movie floundered or underperformed despite good reviews, ten years ago studious could still count on DVD and Blu-ray sales to make up the losses. Streaming services weren't the content juggernauts they are today. People still had to go to Blockbuster and Hollywood video and actually rent physical copies of recent flicks or entire TV seasons if they wanted to get caught up. That's how I finally got around to discovering Dreamgirls. I rented it. I didn't catch it in theaters but after all of the Golden Globes and Oscars hype, I at least had to check it out - it was the movie everyone was talking about.
A decade later and Dreamgirls may not be a big part of the cinematic conversation anymore - but its effects have been long-lasting. Beyoncé is a chart-topping solo recording artist and long married to Jay-Z. Jennifer Hudson won her much-deserved Oscar gold and has continued to record great tracks, pop up in movies and is a "coach" on The Voice. Jamie Foxx is still smooth and cool as ever. Eddie Murphy cashed in on Norbit and playing Donkey through the following Shrek films and specials while fans eagerly await his long overdue return to action/comedy greatness with another Beverly Hills Cop film. Director Bill Condon rounded out the Twilight franchise with Breaking Dawn Part One and Part Two before successfully bringing Beauty and the Beast to life.
Considering the major players involved and the careers were made with this film - I'm pleased to report that Dreamgirls holds up pretty well. I'm a tough nut to crack when it comes to musicals. I don't particularly enjoy unnecessary singing when simple conversations will do the trick - but Dreamgirls works for me. Part of it has to do with Condon aping the structure of a really great album and applying intricately produced and cohesive music videos to each song. Kind of like how a really great album like how Rumors or Pet Sounds are best when you listen to each song in order rather than simply jumping to your favorite track, Dreamgirls tells a full story through each song. We get a little piece of where any given character's life is in that moment before the song ends and that little chapter of the film closes. When the next song starts, we're at a different time of the story, some things have happened, some relationships have changed, but you can still fill in the blanks.
As far as the extra 10 minutes for this Director's Extended Edition goes, you can take it or leave it. More or less the added material is mostly scene and music number extensions rather than groundbreaking new material that fundamentally alters the film. Truth be told, I hadn't seen the film since renting it nearly 10 years ago and to that end, I barely noticed the differences. After switching between both versions I'd say that certain sequences feel more complete, that is to say, the added beats give the scenes some extra breathing room and resonate just a bit better.
10 years on and Dreamgirls is still a damn good movie with incredible performances, impeccable musical staging and execution, and some catchy tunes - but it's not a classic. At least not in my eyes. I know some people deeply love this movie and I appreciate its numerous qualities, it's not the greatest thing to come down the pipeline. In that respect, it does make me wonder how well 2016's La La Land will stand the test of time. Both films were heavily publicized and marketed musicals that people just couldn't stop talking about. We'll just have to pick this conversation up in another decade.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Dreamgirls Director's Extended Edition arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount home video in a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD set. The film is pressed onto a Region A BD-50 disc and comes housed in a two-disc Digibook package with stills and lyrics to the film's songs included inside. The disc loads to trailers for other upcoming Paramount releases before arriving at an animated main menu with traditional navigation options.
While Dreamgirls gets a newly encoded AVC-MPEG-4 2.35:1 1080p transfer, it's not a complete remastering from a fresh scan of the film - which would have been ideal for such a lavish production as this. While detail levels are very good and film grain is apparent without being intrusive or noisy, I can't shake the feeling that had this release been given a full fresh 4K scan, we would have something truly eye-popping to look at. Black levels are on point and the image enjoys a great sense of depth. Colors are also robust and lavish bathing in rich primaries with particularly bright blues. Contrast is also even without any blowouts. I spotted some slight compression issues, a bit of banding here and there but that's the only real negative to report. Without the 2007 release at my disposal, I'm working against an admittedly faded memory. That said, in an era with 4K UHD, HDR, and Dolby Vision, I can't help but be a little disappointed that Dreamgirls wasn't given the full format upgrade. As it stands, this is a fine transfer. It gets the job done and fans should be pleased.
Now if there was ever a reason to upgrade your disc of Dreamgirls it would be just so you could snag this brand new DTS:X mix. This is how you do a musical mix! Dialogue and lyrics are crystal clear and prominent giving you the chance to fully appreciate these talented actresses vocal range. The backup music thunders to life and really punches things up. Sound effects and scoring make sure the channels are fully engaged at virtually all times creating a great sense of atmosphere and dimension. The activity towards the far sides and to the rears when the clubs are packed with people and the hustle and bustle on the stage really give this mix a lot of life and range. Even during the film's quieter personal moments, there is an ever constant sense of imaging and atmosphere. In the subtlest ways, there is near constant surround activity that only enhances your involvement giving the film a richly immersive effect. Levels are pitch perfect, but my advice is to keep this sucker loud. When the low base tones kick in and the showstopper tunes roar to life, you'll be glad you kept the volume up - so long as you don't have neighbors with noise complaints!
Unfortunately, bonus features are the true shortfall of this new Director's Edition as virtually none of the archival bonus features of the 2007 Showstopper release have made it to this disc. Apparently, according to their website, the Target exclusive release does contain some if not all of those bonus features in an extra disc. The Target website wasn't too specific as to what extras are on that disc nor do I have it available to me for confirmation - I'm only left to assume that it sports those missing features. What's been included for this general release is pretty flimsy, unfortunately. While it's great to see the Jennifer Hudson screen test footage, it's really not all that amazing since we know already that A: she got the part and B: she won an Oscar for her efforts. There's no discernible reason for at least some of those previous release extras to not have been included.
Can He Even Sing Audition Footage: (HD 0:48)
What About Me Audition Footage: (HD 2:04)
And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going Audition Footage: (HD 4:04) Here Hudson performs the song that all but guaranteed her Oscar win.
And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going Screen Test Footage: (HD 4:42) This is a bit more professional, better-produced performance with Hudson.
Dreamgirls is a damn good musical that brought a hell of a lot of great talent to the screen. Who would have thought that Eddie Murphy would deliver one of his best performances and snag an Oscar nomination in the process? Ten years on, the film is still a great piece of movie making, but it may not be the genre classic it was hyped up to be. I was very entertained by it, and it was great to see the film's various stars so many years younger and reflect on how far they've come - or fallen in some cases. Dreamgirls Director's Extended Edition offers up a slightly rejiggered video transfer with one hell of a great DTS:X audio mix upgrade. Unfortunately, the bonus features package for such an impressive film can only be considered anemic at best. As none of the previous release bonus features were ported over for this release, I can't fully recommend replacing your previous disc. If bonus features don't matter to you, this is the disc that sports a great A/V presentation for the film, so to that end, I'm calling it recommended. But I caution, if you're a completionist and want all of the bonus features, you're going to need to hold onto that Showstopper release.