Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA/United Kingdom, 2004. Warner Bros., Odyssey Entertainment, Really Useful Films, Scion Films. Screenplay by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Joel Schumacher, based on the musical book by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the novel Le Fantome de L’Opera by Gaston Leroux. Cinematography by John Mathieson. Produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Stilgoe. Production Design by Anthony Pratt. Costume Design by Alexandra Byrne. Film Editing by Terry Rawlings. Academy Awards 2004. Golden Globe Awards 2004. National Board of Review Awards 2004.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sappy Broadway musical, among the most successful stage productions of all time, makes it to the big screen with its romantic swagger intact. It tells the story, adapted from the novel by Gaston Leroux, of a disfigured musical genius (Gerard Butler) who lives in the bowels of a Parisian opera house and controls the life of a beautiful ingénue (Emmy Rossum) whom he wants to make into a star. When she falls in love with the dashing Raoul (Patrick Wilson), she inspires the Phantom of the Opera’s jealousy and he does all sorts of nasty things to the company’s members in order to get revenge. The play spawned many musical hits, including the title song (which still sounds like a cheesy pop ballad that was composed on a dinky synthesizer), “All I Ask Of You” and “The Music Of The Night”, and all of them remain quite intact in the film version. Visually and musically, Joel Schumacher’s production does great service to Webber’s musical, expanding the action for film with dazzling flair while allowing the operatic score to shine without resorting to quick editing to pamper the needs of a seriously attention-deficient audience. What it doesn’t have is any emotional depth, which is what the play suffered from as well, so getting to the climactic ending becomes a bit more of a task than it should be. Rossum’s performance as the heroine Christine is perfectly lovely, an enchanting portrayal that is splendidly filled out by her gorgeous singing voice, but Butler’s Phantom is excruciating to endure. His voice is unpleasant to listen to, and his interpretation of the gothic figure of a French romantic novel is to make the character petulant and whiny; Schumacher couldn’t have done worse if he’d cast Homer Simpson in the role. Whenever Rossum isn’t dominating the screen, however, the show is constantly being stolen by Minnie Driver (as Carlotta the diva) and Miranda Richardson (who, as it turns out, has a pretty good singing voice). For the first half you’ll enjoy the music and the beautiful sets and costumes, but the rest is only barely memorable.