Best Picture — Comedy: This year’s Globes race as hearty as dramatic counterpart

Golden Globes Countdown

It’s not every year that the Golden Globe race for motion picture, musical or comedy, turns out to be as robust and competitive as its dramatic counterpart. Fortunately for awards watchers, this is one of those years.

It all starts with “Dreamgirls,” the latest of Hollywood’s recent attempts to reclaim the Broadway musical as a vital cinematic genre. Touted all year long (albeit sight unseen) as the movie to beat, “Dreamgirls” seemed destined to follow the same razzle-dazzle route as 2002’s “Chicago,” which launched its bid for Oscar glory with eight Golden Globe nominations.

“Dreamgirls” drew a very respectable five noms, though Bill Condon (who adapted “Chicago”) was noticeably absent in the categories for director and screenplay, putting the tuner on the same ground as its rivals for best pic. While the best-received musicals tend to encounter smooth sailing in this category (think “Chicago” and “Moulin Rouge,” as opposed to “The Producers” or “The Phantom of the Opera”), it would be a mistake to entirely discount the competition.

Not that “Thank You for Smoking,” Jason Reitman’s satire on the Big Tobacco spin cycle, necessarily stands much of a chance, since satire rarely plays well with awards givers. A stronger case could be mounted for “Little Miss Sunshine,” this year’s little indie that could, which began life as a record-setting Sundance success story and quickly became a breakout hit. The low-budget comedy is arguably the most beloved movie of the bunch, and the most beloved movie sometimes has a way of winning (like when 1999’s “Toy Story 2” beat out “Being John Malkovich”).

Still, the pic’s inability to nab more acting nominations (despite early buzz for Abigail Breslin, Steve Carell and Alan Arkin) or a screenplay mention suggests weaker across-the-board support within the HFPA ranks than anticipated. And funny or not, “Little Miss Sunshine” is no glamour-puss.

“The Devil Wears Prada” is quite the glamour-puss — and while it may be a dishy behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry, it’s not not a movie to be taken lightly. In addition to its ongoing success at the worldwide box office, “Prada” was cited as one of the year’s best films by both the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute — not an accomplishment that “Dreamgirls” can claim (or, for that matter, “The Departed” or “The Queen”).

As for the scandalous (and scandalously lucrative) “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,” Sacha Baron Cohen’s guerrilla mockumentary represents the sort of cultural phenomenon that will undoubtedly command passionate support in some quarters.

When picking a favorite in this category, Globe voters are essentially trying to select a musical or comedy that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the drama nominees — in short, a movie substantial enough to compete for the best picture Oscar. Will the Hollywood Foreign Press face the music or bask in the “Sunshine”? Stay tuned.