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With: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne, Aaron Tveit, Samantha Barks, Daniel Huttlestone
Written by: William Nicholson, based on the musical by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer, and on the book by Victor Hugo
Directed by: Tom Hooper
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for suggestive and sexual material, violence and thematic elements
Running Time: 157
Date: 18/03/2013
IMDB

Les Misérables (2012)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

A Little Fall of Rain

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Tom Hooper has a great deal at stake with his follow-up to his Oscar winner The King's Speech. Specifically, he won Best Director over Darren Aronofsky, David Fincher, and the Coen brothers, so he had better be good. Sadly, he's not good enough. His new Les Misérables -- which is not the first filmed version of Victor Hugo's novel, but is the first filmed version of the famed Broadway musical -- is a dud. Although I will give him credit for trying and failing rather than simply being lazy or inept.

Hooper obviously wanted to make the execution of this play smaller and more intimate for the big screen, upon which performances don't need to aim for the back row. (Characters now part-sing, part-speak their lines.) Unfortunately, this material demands hugeness and boldness, and the new approach simply kills the energy and momentum. By the time this monumental movie drags to the end of the 2nd hour, it has grown stale.

Anne Hathaway is a highlight in the role of Fantine. She sings her key song in one single take, and the songs were actually sung and recorded live on the set. Unfortunately, Fantine dies before the end of the first half. Hugh Jackman, it seems, was born to play Jean Valjean, and he's magnificent from time to time, but even he begins to run out of steam as the battle sequences take over the second half.

Newcomer Samantha Barks plays the sexy role of Eponine, and though she shone in her stage performances -- you can see them on YouTube -- she doesn't particularly stand out in the movie. Russell Crowe is fine, but he's more of a rock singer than an opera singer, Sacha Baron Cohen mugs and steals scenes, and Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, and Eddie Redmayne get lost in the shuffle.

Perhaps most irritatingly, the movie includes a new song, which was added solely so that it can be nominated for an Oscar (songs that were not specifically written for movies are disqualified).

For the record, I saw the stage show twice, and loved it. This movie will probably only appeal to super-die-hard fans of the play. Everyone else will wonder what the big deal was.

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