The 'razzle-dazzle' behind 'Chicago' is Oscar material, too

Critics' Picks : New Dvds

Screen

December 18, 2005|By MICHAEL SRAGOW

CHICAGO: THE RAZZLE-DAZZLE EDITION / / Miramax Home Entertainment / / $29.99

Three years after its Best Picture Oscar, Chicago remains the zingiest movie of its kind since Cabaret (1972). The DVD premiere of The Razzle-Dazzle Edition puts director-choreographer Rob Marshall's great success on the home-video front line before the national rollout of Marshall's Memoirs of a Geisha. Not even legendary filmmaker William A. Wellman, in Roxie Hart (1942), showed as much panache as Marshall in mounting the lowdown-classic story of a Roaring '20s chorine who uses her notoriety as a killer to fuel showbiz celebrity. Bob Fosse conceived his 1975 adaptation of Maurine Dallas Watkins' 1926 play as "a musical vaudeville." In his boldest stroke, Marshall humanizes the tale -- and stylizes it even more -- by presenting it from Roxie Hart's point of view. Roxie (Renee Zellweger) kills her lover for leading her on with dreams of showbiz glory. Even before she lands in the same clink as headliner Velma Kelley (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who has murdered her husband and the other half of her sister act, Roxie pictures her own name up in lights. The prison and, later, the courtroom serve as her launchpads for stardom.

Marshall zestily revives the flapper era. For Marshall, easy cynicism can be crippling, but feeling feisty and wised-up can be liberating. Roxie's makeover from desperate hick in a frumpy dress to spotlight-hugger in sequins rouses cheers from her audience within the film and from viewers nestled around the DVD.

l Special features: This new edition provides an extended showcase for Zellweger, Zeta-Jones, Queen Latifah as the prison matron and Richard Gere as the super-slick lawyer Bill Flynn. The fresh bonus material includes alternate angles and longer takes of the sizzling big numbers and even more revealing rehearsal footage, including Zellweger pre-recording "Nowadays." You're moved to see how shocked she is that she sounds tip-top on the playback. Marshall gets his due as both a filmmaker and a choreographer -- and it's overdue. His variations on Fosse have their own pop perfection.

ALSO ANTICIPATED

ONE DAY IN SEPTEMBER / / Sony / / $19.94.

Before seeing Steven Spielberg's tepid Munich (opening Friday), watch Kevin Macdonald's shattering documentary about the Palestinian terrorist slaughter of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team. One Day in September won the Academy Award for best documentary of 1999; it receives a timely re-release on DVD this Tuesday. You may think you know how shallow security forces were for the 1972 Olympics and how confused and inadequate their response was to the onslaught of eight men with machine guns from the Black September Movement. But as Jeremy Irons' Claus von Bulow might have drawled, "You have no idea." This movie portrays human life sacrificed to selfishness and ineptitude -- all under the banner of Olympian peace, love and understanding.

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[MICHAEL SRAGOW]

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michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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