He was wrong.
Hudson is back and gives seasoned vets Jamie Foxx and Beyonce a run for their money as Effie, the castaway Dreamgirl in the big screen adaptation of the Broadway hit. There is Oscar buzz about her performance and she has already earned a Golden Globe nomination.
The story of Dreamgirls is a thinly veiled retelling of the Svengali-like managerial style of Motown boss Berry Gordy and the rise to success and subsequent solo career of Diana Ross and the Supremes under his supervision. Gordy replaced original Supremes lead singer Florence Ballard with the thinner and prettier Ross, exiling Ballard from the group she created. Ballard died in 1976 at age 32 after a long battle with depression and drugs. Only the names and minor details have been changed.
In the fast-paced Dreamgirls version of the story Foxx is Curtis Taylor Jr., a Cadillac salesman turned wannabe music impresario who bounces Effie (Hudson) as lead singer of the Dreams in favor of backup singer Deena Jones (Beyonce). Effie struggles with the betrayal and tries to re-ignite her career while toiling in the shadow of her former band mate and friend.
It’s an all-star cast with Jamie Foxx and Beyonce at the top of the marquee, but it is two of the supporting players who really shine—one newcomer and one veteran.
Eddie Murphy gives the kind of performance here that he has only ever hinted at in other films. As R&B singer James “Thunder” Early—imagine 1966 era James Brown—he blows the doors off, digging deep and creating a memorable character who is as magnetic as he is repulsive.
But the real star of the show is Jennifer Hudson. She brings not only a roof-rattling voice to Effie’s character but also equal measures of sass, dignity, and strength. It’s probably too soon to say this, but Effie just might be the role of a lifetime for Hudson.
Fans of musical theatre have seen some of their favorites—Phantom of the Opera and The Producers come to mind—botched on their way to the screen but Dreamgirls should satisfy even the toughest critics. I think even Simon Cowell might like it.