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

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

Advertisement
The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

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.