Gere's knowing smirk is right at home on Billy Flynn's arrogant mug. Yet it's his goofball glee — and his better-than-good singing — that's the most pleasing, even as it reminds us that courtroom charmers like Flynn are in the biz, the legal profession, because of the pleasure in putting on a show. Zellweger yet again refines her gift for wavering between self-opacity and startled self-awareness. Despite her calculations, Roxie is no Eve Harrington: But then again, Eve never murdered anyone. You get the sense that Zellweger's Roxie will always be a work in progress.
As for Catherine Zeta-Jones' Velma Kelly: Sometime in the recent past, in some darkened screening room, the folks at Miramax might have thought as they watched the Guy Ritchie-Madonna remake of Swept Away, "There but for the grace of God." Chicago's Velma must exude from the jump an utter confidence that Madonna hasn't shown onscreen since Desperately Seeking Susan. Zeta-Jones, on the other hand, is so naturally self-assured she can hawk T-Mobile 24/7 and never imagine she's slumming. Her Velma growls her songs — and does a not-half-bad channeling of Cyd Charisse. And when, finally, Velma has to grovel, Zeta-Jones offers an emotional photo neg to Zellweger's aggressive tentativeness: a kind of pleading varnished by bravado. When it comes to Velma, Roxie was always right: She really does have a quality Roxie lacks. Is it any wonder in the end they take their act to the stage? These "killer dillers," these "sinners," they complete each other.
CHICAGO| Directed by ROB MARSHALL | Written by FRED EBB, BOB FOSSE, BILL CONDON, from the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins | Produced by MARTY RICHARDS and BOB WEINSTEIN | Released by Mirimax Films | At selected theaters