The not-so-secret secret of Chicago’s

John Hult

John Hult

Chicago is a hit. It’s riding at the crest of a wave of the fully revitalized movie musical, they say. The Collegian’s own managing editor and practicing movie nut Todd VanDerWerff says it will win Best Picture at the Academy Awards next month, and I think he’s right.

Chicago came in third at the box office last weekend despite playing on about 1,000 fewer screens than number two Shanghai Knights. What’s more, two weeks ago Chicago ended up in the number five position despite playing on one-fifth the screens of the rest of the top five.

Why Chicago? What’s so special about this glitzy re-make of the Broadway standby that makes it such stiff competition at the box office and gives it the real shot at Best Picture Moulin Rouge never really had?

Is it the taught, quick-witted script that moves along as quickly and satisfyingly as the finest of action films? That’s a start.

Is it the intensely imaginative musical numbers performed by dancers who can actually do all of the funky flexible stuff only found otherwise on Broadway? Could be.

Is it the posh picture of Jazz Age Chicago it paints, where femme fatales wear high heels to their own hanging? The accent marks the fabulous art direction and cinematography scribble over those musical numbers? Sure.

Maybe it’s just the flat-out charisma of every character, right?

But really. . . why is it doing so much better than Moulin Rouge did last year?

Sex, sex and more sex.

The movie muscial has its rabid fans, to be sure. But they boast numbers more in the range of big band fans or Macintosh users than in Star Wars range. Remember all of those band, choir and theater geeks in high school? Yeah, those people.

The Academy loves Chicago just because it’s a well-done muscial. Most of the voting members of the Academy are really old, so most of them either grew up watching or spent years making them, so they can appreciate random bursts of singing more than our cynical generation.

But in order to make a genre as thouroughly ridiculous as the musical play for a younger audience, you need some sort of gimmick. A great movie alone won’t cut it.

You need something to convince all the morons plunking down dollars for dreck like Final Destination 2 that their dollars are better spent on two hours of non-sensical song and dance.

Moulin Rouge had pop music molded into its lavish production to swallow up the jaded kiddies. Dancer in the Dark had Bjork. Chicago has sex.

Chicago has as much cleavage, thigh-flashing and money-maker shaking as any Nelly video wrapped around its high brow demeanor.

Let’s face it, musical lovers: 60 years ago, the songs from musicals were radio hits. Musicals are hot again, but will any station play “All That Jazz” after “Shake Your Bon Bon” and followed by “In Da Club?” Didn’t think so.

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