Our Rating: 2 out of 5
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
They just don't make musicals like they used to. It used to be the screen would be filled with breathtaking song and dance numbers. Now it's all sex and sleaze. Following in the wake of Moulin Rouge's success comes Chicago, based on the award-winning Broadway play. Needless to say, it's not worth seeing on screen or on stage. It's the sleaziest, squishiest, sexiest musical made in a decade... which is probably why Hollywood's finest love it so much.
It's the roaring twenties in the windy city, and stage shows are all the rage. Audiences flock to their local Broadway theater to see the city's finest strut their stuff. Roxie Hart (Rene Zellweger) is an up and coming singer who wants her own show. Unfortunately, it's not what you do, but who you know... or more appropriately, who you share intimate time with. And her sweet but dimwitted husband isn't going to be her ticket to success. So instead, she starts spending time with the rich and famous bachelors in town. Soon her plan backfires and she lands herself on "murderer's row" after dispatching one lover with her husband's pistol.
Her cellmate is none other than Broadway's hottest singing sensation, the great Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who caught her husband in bed with her sister and "dispatched them both." They go in together with a hot-shot lawyer (Richard Gere) who claims never to have lost a case in court to get them out of the slammer and back on the stage. Mingled between court appearances are song and dance numbers, usually sexually-charged, that develop further the storyline and exploit Broadway for all its worth. One of Hollywood's great ironies is its feminist regime. They're quick to land the punches on anti-feminist statements and love bold new heroines, usually lesbians. But films like Chicago prove how stupid Hollywood thinks the public really is. They're fooling themselves if they think they honor women or the feminist movement.
Any true advocate of woman would hate them being exploited--forced to bare it all for the camera, dance around in skimpy clothing, and sleep with every guy who comes along to make it to the top. Who do they think they're kidding? Content issues also run amuck. The Catholic faith is mocked. Flynn demeans Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, intimating he had 'bad lawyers' (or he would have gotten off). The film opens with an explicit adulterous fling in which Roxie's lover takes great pleasure in turning her wedding photo on its face. Innuendo runs rampant, amidst public pawing in dance numbers, bawdy lyrics, and skimpy clothing. Flynn requires sexual favors for his work. We see women shooting their husbands left and right, often while their hubby is half-dressed in bed with other women. The film takes a cavalier style of show business... not all Broadway shows are this smutty behind the scenes. Chicago gives quite the trio to root forBilly Flynn, a womanizing lawyer who claims he could have saved Jesus for $5,000 bucks, and two immoral skimpy dressers who use their sexual appeal to climb to the top, and want to get out of jail for murders they actually committed.
The film justifies and makes light of violence (the song lyrics to a number in prison states 'they had it comin'!' and by the end, the audience in the movie can't keep who killed who straight anymore, nor do they care). True, the film does have some snappy dance numbers, and the actors and actresses are surprisingly talented. But what Chicago pushes is immoral standards, sleazy heroes, and smutty stage shows.