Chicago: 20th Anniversary Edition (Steelbook, Blu-ray)

Two death-row murderesses develop a fierce rivalry while competing for publicity, celebrity, and a sleazy lawyer's attention.

January 30, 2023 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Chicago was the second true “musical” in the last few years, with the first being Moulin Rouge (a film I thought was much better than this as it was more original and I feel, more entertaining). Granted, the musical genre is something that many had thought gone the way of the dodo as the last musical to win Best Picture was Oliver! and that was in 1968. So while it’s good to see that our movie stars of today can still belt out tunes; are they the same as in the Golden Age of Hollywood or are they just capitalizing on the new “in thing”? Now don’t get me wrong, Chicago was a great movie, I got my money’s worth and it’s something that I’ll watch more than once, I just don’t feel it was the best movie of last year. Suffice it to say, I was a bit irked that Richard Gere didn’t get nominated for an Academy Award (his female co-stars did and Zeta-Jones-Douglas won) too. But alas…

The film takes place in the Windy City during the Roaring 20’s and everyone was having a grand old time. Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) dreams of stardom and while dancing it up on stages, she hopes to find her lucky break. Feeling that she’ll be able to flee her husband, Amos (John C. Reilly), once she has achieved success she can get on with her life and be truly happy. However, her life takes a shocking turn as she meets a man who tells her that he can make her a star. Playing on her dreams, he has his sexual way with her and once she finds out that he has no more connections in show business than she does; she shoots him in a fit of rage. In prison, she meets Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who is doing time for committing a double murder herself. These chicks aren’t that nice! Kelly is the current buzz of the media and her incarceration has only given her more exposure than before (she was a dancer and everything Roxie had aspired to be). We then meet the slick lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere who plays lawyers better?) who is only interested in making Roxie look innocent and wants his own name in the papers as well. Cocky and arrogant, Flynn plays the papers like a piano and in the same time has managed to make Roxie the current “media darling” and hence forcing Velma Kelly into the shadows. But, as always, people’s 15 minutes of fame must disperse and it’s not long that both Roxie and Velma are starving for attention.

Lest I forget to mention, many songs are belted out along the way and the soundtrack does have some very catchy tunes; this is what made the movie so likable to such a diverse audience. The movie, of course, was based on the Broadway play and I feel it only is making the leap to the big screen due to the resurgence of the musical. That’s not bad, per se, but the timing is always everything. While Chicago is a good movie, I’m not sure how well it will stand the test of time. Musicals are like that, but this doesn’t have the same feeling in it as Singin’ in the Rain or The Wizard of Oz. Are we really going to be singing “When You’re Good to Mama” and “Razzle Dazzle” fifty years from now? I doubt it. But to the actors’ credit, they did all of their own singing and I was quite impressed with all, especially Zellweger whose “normal” voice is very high and nasal-like. Nevertheless, this movie raked in the money and the awards and I’m sure that there’s plenty of fans out there that will pick this up.

Video: How’s it look?

Chicago was literally one of the first Blu-ray’s out when the format debuted in 2006. I remember watching the movie then (and I think that’s the last time I watched it) and being impressed at how crisp and clear the picture was. Then again we didn’t have a lot to compare it to, visually-speaking.  I don’t think that a brand new transfer was created for this edition, but I will say that the image does look a bit more cleaned up and polished. I saw a little more “sparkle” in some scenes, the blacks appeared stronger and the entire image just seemed a bit more stable.  I couldn’t find my previous Blu-ray, so this might all be a placebo effect, but suffice it to say that I didn’t see too much wrong with this image.

Audio: How’s it sound?

What is more noticeable is the new Dolby TrueHD mix.  This replaces the previous PCM uncompressed mix found on the original Blu-ray. Chicago won the Academy Award for Best Sound, so it’d better sound good on Blu-ray. It does.  There seems to be a  lot more depth with this TrueHD mix. Vocals seem a bit stronger, surrounds are used with great effect and the LFE do their thing and do it well.  While the previous Blu-ray didn’t sound bad by any means, this new sound mix does seem to up the ante a bit.

Supplements: What are the extras?

Given the number of previous editions of this title out there, it’s not surprising that this anniversary edition doesn’t contain anything new. With over 3 hours of “legacy” content, this isn’t the definitive edition, by any means.

  • Audio Commentary – This is the same commentary track found on pretty much every other edition out there. Director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon team up for a very informative chat that covers the dance numbers, the dancing itself and the accolades that the film garnered.
  • Chicago in the Spotlight – A Retrospective with Cast and Crew – This is the only new feature that wasn’t found on the previous Blu-ray or DVD editions. It’s a retrospective look at the movie with some of the cast and crew of the film. Admittedly it’s interesting, though I don’t know if this would tempt me to purchase this new edition.
    • Bringing Chicago to Life: Adapting the Broadway Musical to Film
    • Developing the Screenplay: Collaborating with Bill Condon
    • Casting the Movie: Finding Actors Who Can Sing and Dance
    • The Extended Cast: The Great Dancers of Chicago
    • Rehearsals: The Best of Times
    • Rob Marshall: Born to Direct
    • Marty Richards: In Remembrance
    • Neil Meron and Craig Zadan: Renowned Musical Producers
    • The Magicians Behind the Camera: Colleen Atwood – Dion Beebe – John Myhre
    • The Best of Broadway: The Choreographers
    • The Director’s Cut: Musical History is Made
    • The 75th Academy Awards: And the Oscar goes to…
    • The 85th Academy Awards: A Walk Down Memory Lane
    • The Relevance and Impact: The Aftermath of the Modern Day Musical
  • Extended Musical Performances
    • “And All That Jazz”
    • “When You’re Good to Mama”
    • “Cell Block Tango”
    • “We Both Reached For The Gun”
    • “Mister Cellophane”
    • “All I Care About”
    • “All I Care About” with Richard Gere
    • “Nowadays” with Renée Zellweger
    • “And All That Jazz” with Catherine Zeta-Jones
    • “I Can’t Do It Alone” rehearsal
    • “Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag” rehearsal
    • “We Both Reached For The Gun” rehearsal
    • “Cell Block Tango” rehearsal

The Bottom Line

This was an opportunity missed. With “older” films being given the 4K treatment and new Atmos soundtracks – they could have knocked this one out of the park. They didn’t. It’s simply what was already available in a new case. If Steelbooks are your thing, there might be a reason to pick this one, otherwise keep what you’ve got.

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