A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Chicago is an Academy Award winner with some strong language and sexual references and situations, briefly explicit. A possible pregnancy by a lover is an element of the plot. All characters are amoral, even sleazy in this satire. Lots and lots of smoking. The "merry murderesses" discuss their killings without remorse. The one innocent character is hanged, shown in shadow.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In CHICAGO, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) is a former chorus girl turned unhappy wife who has gone from sleeping around ("they buy you dinner") to fooling around ("they don't"). She has an affair with a furniture salesman who promises to introduce her to a guy who works in a nightclub. She wants to be a star. But when the guy dumps her and tells her he never knew anyone at the nightclub, she shoots him. In jail, she meets a cadre of women who killed the men in their lives. They explain how it all happened in "He Had It Coming." Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta Jones) is a headliner who shot her sister and boyfriend when she found them together. She is the jail's biggest star until lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) takes Roxie's case and sells her to the media as an innocent bride corrupted by jazz. The ultimate showbiz razzle-dazzle is the trial, complete with costumes, props, script, and 12 very important audience members -- the jury.
Is it any good?
The razzle does indeed dazzle and the musical numbers are sensational. Zellweger is in fine form. If she is not quite up to the role, perhaps she doesn't have it in her to portray such a trashy, despicable character. Zeta Jones, with a Lulu haircut and legs made for sparkly tights, is mesmerizingly beautiful and alone has all the razzle-dazzle this movie needs. Gere clearly enjoys his return to his musical theater roots and handles the musical numbers well, especially his big tap dance. Queen Latifah as the prison warden has a lot of snap and verve and a fabulous voice. But none are a match for the real dancers in the chorus.
Director/choreographer Rob Marshall produces slinky dance numbers and sinuous camera work. The musical numbers are staged as nightclub performances and separate from the action to serve as counterpoint and commentary, illuminating the story and underscoring the theme of show over substance. Perhaps it is show instead of substance, or even show to make us forget that there is no substance. One reason it feels so empty at the core is that the story does not have a single likeable character, honest statement, unselfish motive, or generous gesture.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the rocky relationship between Velma and Roxy in Chicago. Why do they agree to work together in the end?
They can also discuss the movie's portrayal of the press as marionettes controlled by the slimy lawyer. Do you think the press are savvier today or not? How does this relate to recent discussions about "fake news" and media literacy?
Are there still people today that would do anything for fame and recognition? How does that play out with social media?
- In theaters: December 27, 2002
- On DVD or streaming: August 19, 2003
- Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere
- Director: Rob Marshall
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Musical
- Run time: 113 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content and dialogue, violence and thematic elements
- Last updated: September 17, 2020
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