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What else do you want in a musical? Some people are ripping on this razzle-dazzler because the characters aren’t lovable. Grow up, or go to Antwone Fisher.

Chicago, based on Bob Fosse’s Broadway smash, kills. Literally. Its 1920s gold diggers, Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones), both reached for a gun when their men done them wrong. But with the help of a slick lawyer, Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), they plan to get out of the prison run by Matron Mama Thornton (Queen Latifah is a sassy wonder) by appealing to the mercy of the court and the tabloids. Jeez, some things never change.

Director Rob Marshall, a Broadway pro with solid TV credits (Cinderella, Annie), makes a smashing debut in features. And Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters) deserves cheers for a hilarious, hard-assed script that sees the musical numbers as fantasies, Roxie’s way to escape the cold, cruel world.

Who knew the Z in Zellweger and Zeta-Jones stood for zowie? They pour their hearts into the John Kander and Fred Ebb score (the team’s best after Cabaret) and dance with flair. Did they have help in the editing? Probably. Who cares? The usually laid-back Gere really turns it on. Wait till you see him tap-dance. Leggy Zeta-Jones is so hot in the “All That Jazz” number, she’s flammable. And Zellweger defines delicious. Even when Roxie abuses her doormat husband, Amos (John C. Reilly stops the show with “Mr. Cellophane”), Zellweger wins our hearts. That’s what makes her dangerous. Just like the movie. Depraved? I’d call it dynamite.

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