Combustible Celluloid
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With: Emmy Rossum, Gerard Butler, Patrick Wilson, Miranda Richardson, Simon Callow, Ciaran Hinds, Minnie Driver
Written by: Andrew Lloyd Weber, Joel Schumacher, based on the novel by Gaston Leroux
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief violent images
Running Time: 143
Date: 12/09/2004

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

2 Stars (out of 4)

That Singing Feeling

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If you need to adapt a huge Broadway spectacle to the screen, who better to do it than Joel Schumacher, the man forever infamous for putting nipples on Batman? And in truth, Schumacher does a remarkable job navigating the film's tremendous sets, floating his camera through rafters and around pillars with great energy. Yet, we have the play itself to deal with, a work based on the novel by Gaston Leroux, but plagued by Andrew Lloyd Weber's hideous and already dated musical score (parts of it sound like 1980s hair metal). In addition, we have a pretty-faced, pretty-voiced cast who can't seem to muster one complete personality between them. Emmy Rossum plays Christine Daae, who falls under the influence of the Phantom (Gerard Butler) and must decide between the mysterious masked musician and her dull boyfriend (Patrick Wilson). One can see how the play -- taking place around the audience and directly involving them -- earned its success, but the movie removes that layer and we're forced to watch passively from the outside. The result is rather numbing. Miranda Richardson co-stars as the ballet mistress who knows the Phantom's secret, Simon Callow and Ciaran Hinds play the eager entrepreneurs who take over the opera and Minnie Driver brings the movie its only comic energy as the explosive diva Carlotta. It may have been a silly idea to make The Phantom of the Opera into a silent film, but the 1925 version at least had Lon Chaney in the title role, and his unique, passionate performance will be remembered long after this version is gone.

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