Release Date: December 27, 2002
Limited release

Cyndi Lauper?

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Chicago is a girls-in-prison movie starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Need I say more?

Based on the original Broadway musical by the late Bob Fosse, who won an Academy Award® for his direction of Cabaret, Miramax is hoping Chicago can be the second movie musical in as many years to achieve both critical and financial success. Thanks to the spectacle known as Moulin Rouge, that door may be open a bit wider than it had been previously.

On paper, Chicago has a lot going for it. The musical itself is very highly regarded and well loved, as is evidenced by the six Tonys it won during its 1997 revival. The cast is top-notch, with Zeta-Jones and Zellweger taking the two crucial female lead roles, along with a magnificent supporting cast that includes Richard Gere, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah.

The subject matter itself may be somewhat of a tricky proposition, though to be fair, if I'd been doing a plot outline for Moulin Rouge more than eight months out, I probably would have said the same thing. The edgy film will be set back in the Chicago of the Roaring '20s, in the days of flappers, the Charleston, speak-easies and Al Capone. Showgirl Roxy Hart (Zellweger) shoots her unfaithful lover and ends up in jail, where she meets Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones), another chorus girl who, coincidentally, is charged with the murders of her husband and sister. Velma is actually enjoying the limelight, as she is the subject of all media attention, but when Roxie comes along she is suddenly yesterday's news. To make matters worse, Velma is also forced to battle for the attention of lawyer Billy Flynn (Gere) when he takes Roxie's case in addition to hers. As all of this serious stuff is going on, of course, our performers just happen to occasionally break out into song and dance.

Along with the fact that the plot may be a tough sell for the general public, another concern is that diehard fans may not be particularly accepting of Zellweger, Zeta-Jones and Gere in the three primary roles. Though Zellweger is fairly untested, Zeta-Jones actually starred in the British revival of 42nd Street as a teenager, while Gere received widespread recognition for playing Danny Zuko in both the Broadway and London productions of Grease. Other strong additions to the cast are Diggs, who plays the bandleader and was in the original cast of Rent, and Chita Rivera, who has a cameo role and was the very first Velma Kelly back in 1975.

Rob Marshall makes his feature-film debut as he directs from a script by Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters). Marshall is probably best known for directing the made-for-television version of Annie for Disney back in 1997, but he also has some past Fosse-related experience, as he co-directed the Broadway revival of Cabaret with American Beauty's Academy Award®-winner Sam Mendes. The music is by the team of John Kander (music) and Fred Ebb (lyrics), one of the few Broadway songwriting teams that debuted in the 1960s and is still active today. Their most notable collaborations include Cabaret, Zorba, Woman of the Year, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and the film versions of Funny Lady and New York, New York.

All of these aspects should combine for a very tantalizing production. After the success of Moulin Rouge, there is little doubt that audiences are willing to accept cutting-edge movie musicals, as long as they offer something a bit unique. With the intriguing talent involved and the power of the Miramax marketing machine exerting its force, Chicago has a real chance at capturing the attention of both the general movie-going public and heavy-duty critics and fans. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Vital statistics for Chicago
Main Cast Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Supporting Cast Richard Gere, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, John C. Reilly, Queen Latifah
Director Rob Marshall
Screenwriter Bill Condon
Distributor Miramax
  • Best Picture, Academy Awards
  • Best Supporting Actress, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Academy Awards

Awards page for Chicago
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture

Comparison films for Chicago
Adjusted Opening
Total BO
Adjusted Total
Moulin Rouge 6/1/0113.72 14.64 2279 6019.00 6178.8 57.22 61.07 4.12
Evita 1/10/978.38 11.00 704 11903.00 15040.8 50.02 65.71 5.63
Les Miserables 5/1/985.01 6.44 1477 3392.00 4194.8 14.10 18.12 2.81
Hedwig and the Angry Inch 8/3/010.29 0.30 46 6221.00 6386.2 3.03 3.23 8.90



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