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Heroes of the Zeroes: Chicago

by on March 1, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

Rated PG-13

“Chicago” leaped out of the gate with such brio and razzmatazz into its pastiche of singing, dancing and pitch-perfect performances that it had nothing on its mind other than astounding entertainment.

Sure, it could be argued that Rob Marshall’s spot-on 2002 adaptation of the John Kander & Fred Ebb musical jabs at the get-out-of-jail-free passes enjoyed by — and media love lavished upon — catty celebrities. But “Chicago” simply is too effervescent with sex, murder, music and all that jazz for dour commentary — precisely why some ballyhooed it for winning the Best Picture Oscar over “Gangs of New York” or “The Pianist.”

Still, this is an irresistibly hyperactive story of Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), who guns down her lover, displaces Velma Kelly (Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones) as Chicago’s favorite femme fatale and becomes a star case for ladies’-man lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere).

Instead of throwing everything at the screen and seeing what sticks, Bill Condon’s screenplay intoxicates like a glitzy, glamorous neon narcotic.

And Zeta-Jones might have won the little gold man, but Gere’s the one at whom to marvel here — capping what was an exceptional comeback year for him (“The Mothman Prophecies” and “Unfaithful”). Possessed with energy he rarely shows, each of Gere’s numbers is spectacular and his exit line perfectly delivered.

Freed from the flab that sags so many stage-to-screen adaptations of musicals, “Chicago” is the rare film that earned applause from its movie audience — luminescent and endlessly entertaining, plain and simple.