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By Richard Gorelick | Posted

Adapted from the still-running streamlined and sexy 1996 revival of the 1975 Broadway musical, Chicago retells the dull-as-blazes story of convicted gangland-era murderers Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly (Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones), who are forced to viciously jockey for attention from the sensational but sympathetic Chicago press. To the movie's credit, this underlying theme of publicity as a way to salvation is not overplayed. By underplaying it, however, the production loses a lot of coherency and urgency, and the detached way in which nearly all of the musical numbers are presented doesn't help. They appear to be happening in an imaginary vaudeville house of the mind, possibly even taking place only in the mind of the character, but sorting it all out isn't a very interesting task. And because the vaudeville-house performances overlap with non-musical behavior in the real settings thanks to hyperactive editing, seldom is there a musical number presented straight through, from start to finish. Worst of all, both Zellweger and John C. Reilly (as her cuckolded husband) are compelled, in separate numbers, to wear horrifying doll and clown makeup, respectively, and everyone hates that shit.

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