Adapted from Bob Fosse's stage musical, Chicago harks back to the jazz age of the 20s. Flirty flappers, chaps in spats, and art deco visuals all lend Rob Marshall's movie a slick, sophisticated feel. Shame, then, that it's only concerned with the razzle-dazzle. It'd be unfair to liken the film to a cheap card trick. It's more on the scale of a David Copperfield illusion, distracting from you from dull mechanics with dazzling visuals.
The plot is scant. Aspiring singer Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) longs for the limelight hogged by vampish Velma Kelley (Catherine Zeta-Jones). By some facile conceit, both end up on Death Row competing for headlines, aided in their efforts by hotshot attorney Billy Flynn (Richard Gere). That's it.
The choreography is polished to perfection, but that's little to do with director Rob Marshall. He'd have done just as well taking a camcorder along to the Adelphi Theatre. The singing hits the spot, but it's the one saving grace for a cast otherwise burdened with an inert script. Zellweger flits between nauseating and mildly irritating. Richard Gere is the definitive shyster, doing what he does best - being smarmy. Zeta-Jones' natural charisma threatens to surface, but never enough that it outshines the glare of sequins. Only Queen Latifah offers a wink of mischief, but any light relief is buried in a celebration of cynicism.
Since Chicago comments on the superficial nature of fame, it's no wonder everyone should prove to be so shallow. But here the film trips over itself like Wayne Sleep in platforms. Ultimately, it's as hollow as Roxie's heart. We're left with a lazy assemblage of set-pieces that fail to add up to anything much. Frankly, you won't be all that jazzed.