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As a Broadway musical, Dreamgirls at least had an excuse: It wasn’t really about the rise of the Supremes and Motown Records. Of course it was, but as a theater piece, it could use its artificiality as a defense against those who might measure Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s third-rate score against “You Can’t Hurry Love” or “Come See About Me.” So what does movie-adaptation director Bill Condon do? He inserts archival footage of Detroit riots and Martin Luther King Jr. to moor this backstage saga in the racially charged mid-’60s. The result is calamitous, because it forces the comparison between Motown’s tossed-off classics and such belabored bluster as “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” the musical’s signature number. The songs (which include four new ones written for the movie) lack the snap, swing, and wit of peak-period Motown; label boss Berry Gordy wouldn’t have bought any of them, even for a B-side. The movie’s Gordy counterpart is Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), a car salesman who starts Rainbow Records; he launches the career of the Dreamettes, who start as backup singers to notorious playboy James Early (Eddie Murphy), and soon become the Dreams. In search of a “lighter sound,” Taylor back-burners hefty lead singer (and girlfriend) Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) in favor of sleeker Deena Jones (Beyoncé Knowles), a rough approximation of Diana Ross. Effie (based on Florence Ballard) proceeds to have a bad life, while Deena and the Dreams become stars with songs written by Effie’s brother C.C. (Keith Robinson). Eventually, Effie, Deena, and C.C. reconcile to revolt against Taylor. Condon, who made the smart and droll Kinsey, closely follows the model of Chicago, which he wrote but Rob Marshall directed: lots of montage, a frenetic editing style, and even some Bob Fossenstyle dance numbers (choreographed by Fatima Robinson). That makes for a movie that’s formulaic, phony, and utterly retro but sufficiently lively that it might work if the music were any good. Did I mention that it isn’t?