In 2002, Chicago debuted on the big screen and forever changed the landscape of movie musicals. With its jazzy tunes, sultry dance numbers, and powerhouse performances from stars like Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere, the film quickly became a classic. This year, on its 20th anniversary, we take a look back at what made Chicago so special—and why it should be rewatched in 2022. But first, a refresher on what the movie is about, via Rotten Tomatoes: “Nightclub sensation Velma (Catherine Zeta-Jones) murders her philandering husband, and Chicago’s slickest lawyer, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), is set to defend her.
But when Roxie (Renée Zellweger) also winds up in prison, Billy takes on her case as well — turning her into a media circus of headlines. Neither woman will be outdone in their fight against each other and the public for fame and celebrity.” Chicago was critically acclaimed during its premiere. Seven Art Studio wrote of the film: “Not knowing what to expect was the best thing while approaching Chicago, its parallelistic storytelling is revolutionary, and like few others, I’ve seen in musicals.” 2022 is the perfect year to give Chicago a rewatch. Here are some of the reasons why the musical should be celebrated on its 20th anniversary in 2022:
Chicago ushered in a new era of movie musicals
Chicago isn’t just a musical; it’s a game-changer. The film marked a new era of big-budget movie musicals, paving the way for movies like Moulin Rouge! and Les Misérables. What makes Chicago one of the most exceptional musicals ever made is its ability to appeal to both diehard fans of the genre and those who wouldn’t typically watch a musical. Thanks to its stellar cast, catchy tunes, and clever storytelling, Chicago has something for everyone. They just don’t do musicals like Chicago anymore.
The film features some of Hollywood’s biggest stars
When you think of Chicago, you probably think of Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere. But the film also features an impressive supporting cast, including Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, and Taye Diggs. Chicago is a star-studded affair that will leave you dazzled from start to finish.
It reminds us why Catherine Zeta-Jones is a Hollywood superstar
While she’s had an illustrious career, it’s easy to forget just how good Catherine Zeta-Jones is in Chicago. She steals every scene she’s in as Velma Kelly, a vaudeville star who turns to murder to get ahead. Zeta-Jones won an Oscar for her performance, and it’s easy to see why. She’s sexy, fierce, and totally unforgettable. And what’s more impressive is that she didn’t really need to emulate anyone to portray her character, according to an interview she did with Playbill, where she said:
“What I did know after reading the script was that I didn’t have a lot of backstory, like audience-wise, to explain Velma Kelly. So I knew that the majority of my characterization was going to come through little looks and nuances and through song and dance. And, that was a little daunting at first . . . [but] I had to nail this character. There’s no time to go into her backstory or backflash. So that was one of the biggest challenges just to nail her — her flamboyance, her desperation to keep her celebrity-dom, her success, and then the rise and fall of Velma in a way. How Roxie takes over, but how, even though she can’t stand her, she’ll eat it, just to get back on top somehow. It was just a great character to play. I didn’t have any — I guess the bob is a Louise Brooks bob, that is what it’s known for, and I always wanted to have that. I went on the internet and downloaded and printed out some photographs of this, and I wanted that sharpness for her. So that was the only thing, I guess, Louise Brooks.”
It’s Rob Marshall’s best work
Director Rob Marshall is responsible for some of Hollywood’s most iconic musicals, including Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha. But Chicago is by far his best work. The film is sleek, stylish, and endlessly entertaining. If you’re a fan of musicals, then you owe it to yourself to watch Chicago. Marshall’s filmmaking style is evident in the movie’s stunning visuals and catchy musical numbers. Clearly, Marshall is simply passionate about musicals, as indicated in an interview he did with The Hollywood Reporter, where he said: “I guess it’s an American-born genre, you know? It’s something we created. I feel like when it’s done well, you know, when there’s a West Side Story or there’s a Chicago on stage or Cabaret, a brilliantly told piece through music, there’s nothing like it. It’s that rule, which I always love about good musicals, that when speaking isn’t enough, you must sing. Singin’ in the Rain is such a perfect movie musical. Think of the song “Singin’ in the Rain,” for instance: you know, he had an evening where he’s fallen in love; he’s leaving, and he’s walking down the street. Just to have him walk down the street and smile, how can we learn what he’s feeling?”
The music is still as fresh today as it was 20 years ago
Thanks to its timeless tunes, Chicago is a musical that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether you’re tapping your toes to “All That Jazz” or belting out “Roxie,” there’s a song for everyone in Chicago. And with its jazzy, 1920s-inspired sound, the music is still as fresh and relevant today as it was 20 years ago.
The movie is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago
While the film is set in the 1920s, its themes of fame, greed, and betrayal are just as relevant today as they were back then. If anything, Chicago is even more timely now than it was when it first came out. In a world where reality TV stars are household names and social media influencers are making millions of dollars, Chicago‘s story of celebutantes clamoring for the spotlight hits close to home.
It’s simply pure entertainment
At the end of the day, Chicago is a movie that is meant to be enjoyed, and that’s enough reason to celebrate it in 2022. It’s a work of pure entertainment that will leave you feeling uplifted and inspired. Whether you’re a diehard fan of musicals or someone who typically avoids them, Chicago is a must-see film that should be celebrated on its 20th anniversary.