With a short plot line like: "Murderesses Velma Kelly (Who blanked out and killed her cheating husband) and Roxie Hart (Who killed her boyfriend in a jealous rage) strive for fame at any costs including scandal and lies in 1920s Chicago", I can't say I expected a lot. Being a musical also put me off, a little. However, I like the time period it has for a setting, so I went with it.
Catherine Zeta-Jones has never looked sexier, in my opinion...and neither has Renee Zellwiger (though she still doesn't turn me on...too dopey looking; I see her, and all I can think is 'ha, ha, you played in Texas Chainsaw 4!'). Richard Gere, for a change, plays a sleazy player who does NOT have a change of heart...he's a sleaze to the end (and frankly, I did not need to see him in a wifebeater and boxers). Supporting cast was played to the hilt...which is to say, they were cliche, and in this case, that was a goods thing. Gorgeously filmed, beautifully costumed, and incredibly composed, I enjoyed the visuals. As this is a film based off a stage musical, they used that in places, using stark black stage areas for some songs.
Now, about this music thing. My main problems with musicals are two-fold. One, they all sound the same: overacted, melodramatic modern opera-wannabe. BLEAH. Here, though, the music was 30's jazz, swing, big band...automatically a vote in it's favor. The other problem I have with musicals is that the music is irrelevant. The story goes along, it gets to a moment, and then there is a song, all about that moment...a moment that suddenly becomes 5 minutes too long, and generally over sugary-sappy-pathetic. Here, however, the songs actually told more of the story..each song was actually PART of the story, and the pace went back and forth between them, sometimes very rapidly, each building on the other...it actually FIT in the movie. Your average musical, if you left during the song, you didn't miss anything; here, you better keep up. So, good music, and meaningful music at that, made for an enjoyable performance.
Now, lastly, choreography. One word: WOW. Good jazz dancing is hard, and I cannot imagine how long C. Zeta-Jones had to practice for the dancing she did, but it paid off...she was incredible. Zellwiger did some near the end, and she was also extremely good, but Catherine stole the show. On top of that, the choreography in areas told just as much story as the songs themselves (such as Gere's tapdance tune, during the courtroom trial, where he is pretty much 'tapdancing' around the truth, making things up as he goes, trying to convince this jury to acquit Zellwiger's character).
All in all, it was fabulous. Hell, I'd have bought the soundtrack, but we didn't see it...well, we'll look tomorrow. I will say that it's not a film for everyone...if it isn't your fare, you may not click with it. Still, I recommend giving it the shot.