One of my most esteemed screenwriter friends sent me the following email on Chicago. (Please feel to identify yourself in the comments if you so wish, O esteemed one.)
Why do we all love the movie so much, even though there's no redemption, there's no one to root for 'cause they're all moral reprobates, there's not one good character?
I think it's because the movie exposes the notion of "celebrity" as a false god. There are movies that worship the concept of "celebrity," of course, and on its surface, Chicago may seem to do so. But really, even while it's trading on our attraction to "celebrity," it takes us inside the notion, shows us how hollow and ephemeral "celebrity" is -- thus exposing our own false idol, as we have been sucked in to the celebrity status of the movie. (And it does it with songs and dancing!)
It makes me think a little about the stage version of The Producers -- we are howling with laughter at the notion of the fictional idiot audience in the play who are willing to deem "Springtime for Hitler" a smash hit without realizing how offensive it is -- yet at the same time, here we are in the real audience, howling with laughter at the exact same thing. Are we better than the people inside the play because we supposedly recognize the irony involved? Or not?
I think the same two levels are going on in Chicago, and that's why it's so much more than a fluffy 42nd Street kind of musical. And why we love it even though, on the surface, there doesn't seem to be much to love.