Chicago (VHS, 2003)

107 consumer reviews
Average Product Rating: Excellent
5 stars
50
4 stars
31
3 stars
15
2 stars
7
1 star
4
Share This!
  Ask friends for feedback

...And Then... My Pen... Just... Slipped! It Had It Comin'! 'Chicago'

Mar 16, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Singing and dancing. Huzzah!

Cons:Lack of pros, and quite frankly, the prose.

The Bottom Line: The movie actually points at the stupidity of its own hype. What else do you need to know?



Whatever else you can say about ‘Chicago’ (and most of what you can say includes the word ‘pretty’), it’s a brave, gutsy film. It’s a rare movie that gives you more ammunition by way of included analogy. At one point Renee Zellweger, as our ‘star’ Roxie Hart, declares that she is unperturbed at not really having an act to take to the stage. After all, she rambles, she will be there, and that’s all that matters. People will want to see her, whether there is any value in what she is doing or not. At another point, Richard Gere, as lawyer Billy Flynn, belts out a peppy, little number about giving them the old ‘Razzle Dazzle’. You don’t need to worry about the truth, or whether there is anything of substance going on, just give them a bunch of flash and glitter.

In a movie that is pretty clearly nothing but a bunch of cotton-candy flash, and sideshow, sleight-of-hand Razzamatazz that expects us to show up (and like it) because of who will be there, that’s pretty brave.

You might write it off to coincidence, if not for the fact that it keeps happening. Zellweger and Gere come together in a scene that supposedly shows off Flynn’s talent as puppet-master, making everyone, Zellweger included, dance however he wants. It’s actually a great scene, easily one of the best of the movie, but in the midst of what’s happening, it only serves to remind that everyone you’re watching dances around like a marionette. Empty characters devoid of any real emotion, or indeed character, flapping and strutting, mouthing lines in a way that could only be called ‘wooden’.

Before I go too far, it isn’t exactly a bad film. Quite frankly, it isn’t exactly a film. I want to say that most of what must make for a great stage experience (my chief reaction at the end was that it must be one hell of a show) was lost in the translation, but there wasn’t really any translation. There was really just going to the show with a camera, and then a few minor adjustments afterward. That might be entertainment for some, but it’s not a movie. The puzzle is why they used all the star power if this was going to be their direction. Apart from the obvious reason that Zellweger warbles at us (people will come just because I’m here), it seems that if it isn’t going to be a movie anyway, they might have just taken people from Broadway who would have done it all better.

I seem to have taken a turn away from that ‘Before I go too far’ sentiment, and it’s hard for me to avoid. The truth is, it’s not bad. It just isn’t particularly good. It does have some decent dance numbers. It also has some impressive set design. It has some catchy songs, and basically, it has some great etc., etc., etc. Etcetera, however, is supposed to mean all those little things that we don’t need to mention specifically. The problem is that ‘Chicago’ has all those little things, but that’s all it has. Even in a musical, dance numbers, sets, catchy songs, and all the rest that is good about this movie, are just etcetera. First you need a story and characters that are worth something. Otherwise, you’re just a fireworks show.

‘Chicago’ does have a story actually, and one that might be fairly interesting if not for the fact that the characters leave you unable to care what happens in the slightest.



Roxie Hart (Zellweger) wants to be a star, and she’ll do anything to make it happen. Her first example is cheating on her husband with a man who allegedly ‘has connections’. On a visit to the supposed connection, Roxie watches the performance of Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Velma is arrested just after the show for killing her sister and her husband.

After a month of sleeping with Roxie, her stock bad guy character beau... I mean, alleged benefactor breaks up with her, and admits he hasn’t any connections and just said what needed to be said to get her in bed. Roxie, true to her character (or caricature), kills him.

Roxie’s husband Amos (John C. Reilly - ‘The Good Girl’, ‘Gangs of New York’) tries to confess to killing the man after Roxie gives him a story about him being a burglar. He mucks it up when he finally puts two and two together, and Roxie ends up in jail.

The rest of the ‘story’ follows Roxie’s time in jail with co-inmate Velma, cellblock matron ‘Mama’ (Queen Latifah), and the pursuit of the greatest lawyer in the movie Billy Flynn (Gere). We watch as the press serves to get certain women acquitted by hyping interesting stories, and we watch a woman hang because even though she’s innocent, she isn’t interesting. It’s a clever, little ditty about the fickle press, and how people (and other things) are made popular by the press, and how people like whatever the press tells them to, whether they’re good or not... I mean, whether they’re guilty or not. Ahem.

That’s really all there is. We dance in and out of ‘reality’ when it seems a good time for a dance number, but that’s the story. ‘Mama’ connects inmates with Billy, if they have the money. Billy takes their case, if they have the money. We get to see Velma and Roxie battle to be the most interesting thing in the press, and everything goes to everyone’s head. It’s a movie filled almost entirely with solipsists.


Like the movie itself, the performances aren’t quite bad exactly, our stars just aren’t playing characters. Zellweger does a decent job at what singing and dancing she does, which isn’t that much, but hers is one of the recently popular, pathetically shallow, self-interested, insane characters. But it’s not actually one of those characters, it’s just that caricature. I found Zeta-Jones to be doing a slightly better job, but that might be mainly because she has the advantage of being center-stage during the first number which outshines everything that follows. It would be easier to like her (and perhaps get behind her nomination), were it not for the fact that the name of her character is ‘Supporting Actress Oscar Hopeful’.

Richard Gere isn’t terrible in the overall, but he is decidedly uneven. At times I thought he was terrible, and at times I thought he was really quite good. He seemed frankly to care about this part (and just as he should) about as much as his character cares about anything.

Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly come closest to what you could actually call ‘acting’ with a straight face, and any kudos they receive will be well earned. But, even their performances are not remotely Oscar worthy. Reilly gave me one of my few smiles of the film as he sang ‘Mr. Cellophane’, telling us of his inability to be seen, and his ‘non-existence’. ‘I’m Mr. Cellophane,’ he kept telling me. ‘You’re the only person who isn’t,’ I kept replying.

Oddly enough, Taye Diggs (‘Brown Sugar’, ‘Just a Kiss’) is absolutely perfect in his role as ‘The Bandleader’. It’s actually distracting whenever he comes on the screen, because he seems to have been pasted on from another film (that I’m about to mention), and in a good way.

Lucy Liu, whipping by in a storm of bizarre editing, is graciously almost unrecognizable.


Though I’m unimpressed, there is something here. It does come through on the flash, and a bit of fun. Several dance numbers are well-executed, and some of the songs will stick in your head. What ‘Chicago’ seems to want to list as its main assets are the fact that no one has seen a musical in twenty years, and the fact that it gets to attach Bob Fosse’s name to itself. The bottom line comes down to its having very little else to say for itself, and I’ve seen ‘Cabaret’. It’s at the bare bones level of being a thing that can call itself a musical, or even a movie. There’s no heart. There’s no emotion. There’s no reason to care what’s going on. There’s just a great bunch of people going through the motions, and lots of shiny bits.


I recommend seeing it if you’ve eliminated all other options, which is to say that I don't really.



Recommend this product? No

Read all comments (20)

Share this product review with your friends   
Share This!


Related Deals You Might Like...

Jeff Buckley Live In Chicago 1995 99 Min Factory Sealed Vhs Tape

Jeff Buckley Live In Chicago 1995 99 Min Factory Sealed Vhs Tape

Recorded at The Cabaret Metro in Chicago, Illinois, May 13, 1995.The Jeff Buckley home video/DVD, Live In Chicago, is comprised of an entire concert p...
eBay

$9.99

+$3.00 shipping
Vhs In Old Chicago: Tyrone Power Alice Faye Don Ameche Andy Devine B Donlevy

Vhs In Old Chicago: Tyrone Power Alice Faye Don Ameche Andy Devine B Donlevy

ONE NEW VHS TAPE -FOX VIDEO SEE MY EBAY STORE FOR OTHER GREAT CLASSIC MOVIES **SHIPPING SPECIAL - CHOOSE PRIORITY MAIL or PRIORITY MAIL INTERNATIONAL ...
eBay

$8.99

+$2.86 shipping
Black Expo Gospel Explosion Iv (1991) - Chicago Vhs New; Bobby Jones & Life

Black Expo Gospel Explosion Iv (1991) - Chicago Vhs New; Bobby Jones & Life

Bobby Jones hosted the Black Explosion IV at Black Expo Chicago's Mc Cormick Place Convention Center on 7-14-91. The competition featured six differen...
eBay

$39.99

+$4.17 shipping
(new)untouchabulls -vhs The Chicago Bulls Championsh... Free Shipping

(new)untouchabulls -vhs The Chicago Bulls Championsh... Free Shipping

A chronicle of the Bulls' quest to defend Their title as NBA World Champions. Includes an exclusive four-minute Chicago Bulls music video of Michael J...
eBay

$9.00

FREE Shipping
Brians Song Vhs Video Tape Out Of Print Sealed Chicago Bears Nfl Sayers

Brians Song Vhs Video Tape Out Of Print Sealed Chicago Bears Nfl Sayers

Gale Sayers (Williams) joins the Chicago Bears as a running back and meets the competitive Brian Piccolo (Caan). While at first the two are rivals, th...
eBay

$9.99

FREE Shipping
Brian's Song  Sealed Vhs Tape James Caan Gale Sayers Piccolo Chicago Bears

Brian's Song Sealed Vhs Tape James Caan Gale Sayers Piccolo Chicago Bears

Gale Sayers (Williams) joins the Chicago Bears as a running back and meets the competitive Brian Piccolo (Caan). While at first the two are rivals, th...
eBay

$9.95

FREE Shipping
Next Of Kin (vhs, 1994)

Next Of Kin (vhs, 1994)

When a young Kentucky man living in Chicago is murdered by a ruthless Mafia boss, his older brother, a Chicago cop, decides to hunt for the killer. Co...
eBay

$8.50

+$3.58 shipping
Continental Divide (vhs, 1997)

Continental Divide (vhs, 1997)

City meets country in this romantic comedy about a tough Chicago newspaperman who falls in love with an ornithologist. Ernie Souchak is a guy who thin...
eBay

$7.50

+$3.58 shipping
Continental Divide (vhs, 1997)

Continental Divide (vhs, 1997)

City meets country in this romantic comedy about a tough Chicago newspaperman who falls in love with an ornithologist. Ernie Souchak is a guy who thin...
eBay

$5.50

+$3.58 shipping
The Front Page - Vhs - New,sealed

The Front Page - Vhs - New,sealed

The first screen version of Hecht and McArthur's classic comedy about Chicago newspapermen in the 1920s, THE FRONT PAGE stars Pat O'Brien as ace repor...
eBay

$7.97

+$3.00 shipping