Joel's Review: A Happy Dance for 'Dreamgirls'

Dec. 15, 2006 — -- If you are going to see "Charlotte's Web," and I hope you do, you might want to ask Santa for some tissues. You're gonna need 'em.

Full disclosure: When we tried to read the book to our son, Dylan, I could barely get through it. And I'm not sure I can get through this review.

It's some movie, some pig, and some star in Dakota Fanning as the tomboyish Fern, who urges her father not to take his ax to the runt of the litter when the family pig gives birth.

Watching "Charlotte's Web," I felt every frame was designed, directed and acted by people who cared first and foremost about bringing the great book to life.

The mix between live action and computer generated animation is seamless. The animals look like they're talking. I don't think they could have made the film a year ago. The farm folk aren't played by stars, which is perfect.

There's star power here, though, including Robert Redford (as Ike the Horse), Julia Roberts (Charlotte the Spider) and Oprah Winfrey (Gussy the Goose). Of course, it's fantasy and fanciful, but they believe their world is real -- and so do we.

"Charlotte's Web" is absolutely one of the best films of the year.

Review: 'The Pursuit of Happyness'

In "The Pursuit of Happyness" Will Smith proves himself to be one of the most talented stars in Hollywood.

At a point in his career where he can do anything, he chose to make a low-budget film based on a story about a homeless guy who risks everything to build a better life for himself and his son, played by Smith's real-life son, Jaden. But even though Jaden is 8 years old, this is not a film for young kids. The depiction of homelessness is very vivid, and there are certain things you might not want your kids to learn while watching a movie.

There's some Oscar buzz for Smith's performance, and it is deserved. Save some of those Kleenex for "The Pursuit of Happyness."

Review: 'Dreamgirls'

There's an old adage I think I invented: The way to stop the Oscar buzz is to show them the movie. Not this time.

At some screenings of "Dreamgirls," there was applause after virtually every song. Standing ovations. From critics. I thought I was going to have to join the electricians' union. There is so much energy on the screen in "Dreamgirls," watching it is like like chasing a live wire.

The film is better than the Broadway musical, which I remember well. Director Bill Condon -- who wrote "Chicago" and won an Oscar -- is recreating the movie musical for the 21st century. Thank you.

Of course, he had a lot of help here, from Beyonce, for one, and, yes, Eddie Murphy.

Murphy plays a James Brown kind of headliner. He feels good, you'll feel good. No slapstick, no stumbling. This is Eddie Murphy acting, and he deserves an Oscar nomination.

A sure thing for a nomination is Jennifer Hudson as best supporting actress. Hudson plays the lead singer of a Supremes-style trio forced out in favor of Beyonce. In real life, Hudson lost on "American Idol." How is that possible?

This film could earn eight Oscar nominations. It's so much fun. Let's go see a movie where you smile, and cheer … and tap your feet a little, too.

Fact:: Songs NOT written specifically for a film can't qualify for Oscar's best song award. Beyonce sings a new song which will be nominated.

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