Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera

"Terrible"

Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera Review


Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals are garish, puerile melodramas with all the elegance and sincerity of a Super Bowl halftime show -- and his brash, brassy songs have the depth and nuance of action-movie explosions.

Director Joel Schumacher was responsible for one of the most tawdry, terribly cliché-riddled action-movie bombs in Hollywood history -- 1997's "Batman and Robin."

When this pair teamed up to bring Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" to the big screen, it was a match made in hell.

A film of gross overacting and overproduced grandeur, yet one without a scrap of digestible character, "Phantom" opens with young and lovely understudy soprano Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum, "The Day After Tomorrow") already under the spell of an obsessed, half-handsome, half-disfigured psycho who lives underneath the most grandiose opera house in 1889 Paris.

Although she's never seen the Phantom (Gerard Butler), over the years she's been in the chorus he has secretly taught her, night after night in the bowels of the building, to "Sing my angel! Sing for meeeeee!" So when the joint's conspicuously talentless, tantrum-throwing Italian diva (Minnie Driver) refuses to perform one night, Christine takes her place, setting in motion a string of events that lead to the girl's star rising and the Phantom's jealousy boiling.

With no story arc to speak of, the characters are left to wander in and out of loosely connected set pieces: Christine gets engaged to a vanilla viscount (Patrick Wilson) with the expressionless stage presence of a rag doll. The theater's matron (Miranda Richardson) is revealed to be in cahoots with the Phantom for no explored reason. Meanwhile, the scenery-chewing titular stalker rages around his incredibly lush, immaculately gaudy underground lair, singing some of the most ungainly exposition-crammed lyrics in musical history.

"You have come here for one purpose and one alone," Butler thunders to the cheap seats as the period-incongruous, ear-splitting, organ-versus-drum-set, rock-opera orchestrations swell. "Since I first heard you sing/I have needed you to serve me/to sing for my music!"

The songs are so vociferous and beyond campy that if Beavis and Butthead were theater fans, they'd have the T-shirt and would head-bang along to the soundtrack. The acting is so painfully histrionic that the closing credits surely could have run with out-takes of the cast cracking themselves up.

Yet pretty, hairy-chested Butler -- who was picked for the title role after Schumacher saw him in the schlocky "Dracula 2000" -- has no weight or portent. What he does have is a scarred face that seems to change disfigurements depending on which stylish mask he's in the mood to wear while terrorizing theater patrons.

Not a single paper-thin character is sympathetic. (Wide-eyed Rossum does her best with Christine, but who can care about a girl so easily entranced and manipulated by the men in her life?) Schumacher's aimless storytelling fails to find a direction until 90 minutes into the film's two-and-a-quarter hours. (The silent 1925 "Phantom" starring Lon Cheney was only 93 minutes, and too long at that.) And Webber's plot is often nonsensical, even the parts that aren't full of narrative holes. Why do the theater owners refuse to let Christine sing their show's lead again, despite threats from the Phantom and even though she's a bigger hit than their star?

But even if "Phantom of the Opera" weren't a sensory assault of cinematic excess, it would still be missing one of the primary draws of the stage hit: the audience's own role in the production, most notably when the theater's grand chandelier is sent crashing down by the enraged Phantom. Here Schumacher must provide a surrogate audience in an on-screen theater, which diminishes the impact of everything that takes place on the opera stage.

Feel free to take this review with a grain of salt if you're someone who doesn't have a pre-determined loathing for Webber's inflated theatrics, inharmonious melodies and unsophisticated libretto. But even if "Phantom" worked for you on stage, just remember this picture is made with hell-bent gusto by the guy who put nipples on Batman's superhero costume. So consider yourself warned.



Facts and Figures

Box Office Worldwide: $51.2M

Budget: $55M

Production compaines: Really Useful Films, Odyssey Entertainment, Warner Bros., Scion Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as The Phantom, as Christine Daaé, as Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, as Madame Giry, as Carlotta, as Firmin, as Andre, as Piangi, as Meg Giry

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.