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Phantom of the Opera, The (2004)
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by EricDSnider

"Think of me ... think of me sleeping."
2 stars

Those of us who love musicals will not be thrilled with the new big-screen version of "The Phantom of the Opera" -- not because it's a terrible film (though it is), but because of the bad name it gives movie musicals. "Chicago" revived the genre and brought in audiences consisting largely of people for whom musicals aren't usually their "thing." Some of those people, having been eased into the genre by the swinging razzle-dazzle of "Chicago," might wander into "Phantom," too, only to be numbed, annoyed and confused. "See?!" they'll say as they stagger out of the film 143 minutes later. "I told you I didn't like musicals!"

Which is a shame, because on stage, "Phantom" is a good way of introducing people to the art of the musical. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's lavish spectacle has catchy tunes and is not overly complicated or intellectual. It is accessible and ordinary, and since it is almost entirely sung (with very little dialogue), there are none of those awkward "they were just talking, then all of a sudden they started singing" transitions that can be so off-putting to newbies.

Nearly everything that is good about the stage version is lost in the movie version, which was adapted by Lloyd Webber and Joel Schumacher and directed by Schumacher. The man has directed good films, including "Phone Booth" and "Tigerland," but when he directs bad ones, he directs the hell out of them. I'm thinking of the loud bombast of "Batman & Robin," or the braying idiocy of "Bad Company." All of his worst impulses -- from bad casting to bad camera angles -- are brought to bear in "Phantom."

Take, for example, the role of the Phantom himself, the mad, disfigured genius who lives beneath the Opera Populaire in 1870s Paris, where the story is set. Schumacher has cast Gerard Butler, bland star of such loud, dumb films as "Dracula 2000," "Timeline," "Reign of Fire" and "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life." Where in all of that did Schumacher see in Butler the potential to play a sensitive, wounded man who obsesses over a singer?

Butler's singing voice is too lightweight for a man with as much built-up passion and anger as the Phantom. It is not an especially good voice, either, growling some of the lower notes and sounding far too modern and pop-ish for a character whose only musical influences have been opera. (Wouldn't a man who lived under an operahouse sing more like Pavarotti and less like Michael Bolton?)

Butler may have been cast because he is handsome -- which is actually a liability for this role, since the Phantom is supposed to be disfigured to the point of being shunned by all society. The way Schumacher and his makeup artists have rendered him, the Phantom has three-fourths of a perfectly good, enviably attractive face, marred only by what appears to be a burn scar around his right eye. For this he was put in a circus freak show? He ought to be uglier. But of course, people wouldn't go see a movie with an ugly man as the romantic lead.

The object of the Phantom's affections is Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum), a young member of the chorus to whom he has been giving covert vocal lessons. He ensures her chance at stardom by antagonizing the prima donna, Carlotta (Minnie Driver, hilarious and underused), who storms off the stage after the latest in a series of mysterious accidents for which the operahouse is infamous. Christine's audition for the company managers is a song called "Think of Me," which we are told comes from the third act of the opera they are rehearsing. It has always amused me that in the middle of some 18th- or 19th-century opera is a cheesy pop-musical love song that, by the sound of it, can only have been written in the 1980s. It doesn't even approximate "opera," nor is it a particularly impressive number. But of course, people wouldn't go see a show that had TOO much opera in it. Setting one in an operahouse is risky enough.

Emmy Rossum's voice is lovely, as is she, but she is devoid of passion. When she sings, her face is expressionless. Matching her in this regard is Patrick Wilson, the Broadway actor who plays Raoul, Christine's non-Phantom paramour. For a fun drinking game, watch him closely and any time his eyes or eyebrows move, take a shot. By the time the film is over, you will have taken two shots. But of course, no one wants to see a movie in which characters' faces register emotion. No, wait. That's wrong.

A Phantom who can't sing and who isn't even hideous, other characters who sing with great enthusiasm yet who do not match it with their faces -- it's as though Schumacher hates musicals and is trying to sabotage every musical element of the film. This theory is borne out by the way he stages the songs. He seldom keeps the camera on a singer's face for more than a couple seconds while he or she is singing, constantly cutting away or giving us long shots instead, thus destroying any hope we have of feeling the sentiments behind the lyrics. There is too much random motion, too much unfocused energy. I note that "Moulin Rouge" had a good deal of choppy editing, too, yet Baz Luhrmann was also not afraid to show us the singers' faces for several seconds at a time. A film musical needn't be "stagy." There just needs to be purpose to the movement, and when a song feels like it needs less movement, the director needs to be willing to restrain himself.

Schumacher seems to have had no idea, when he was filming, that there would be music added later, or what kind of music it might be, or what sort of emotions it would be expressing. He just goes right on swooping the cameras around, showing us expensive set pieces and vibrant costumes, regardless of what the texture of the music would suggest he ought to do.

There is a very funny song called "Prima Donna," sung by the opera managers Firmin (Ciaran Hinds) and Andre (Simon Callow) to Carlotta in an attempt to woo her back to the stage, the Phantom's insistence that she not perform notwithstanding. Schumacher does not seem to know that this song is funny, for he directs the scene the same way he directs everything else, i.e., chaotically and peripatetically. At every turn, he convinces me he is absolutely the wrong man to direct any musical.

Some of my colleagues have said that a director as shallow as Schumacher is the perfect fit for a musical as shallow as "Phantom of the Opera," but I think the finished product proves otherwise. On stage, "Phantom" can be a pleasure, even if it is a guilty one. On screen, what passion and excitement there is in the work has been sucked out; it has become boring, which is something the stage version could never be accused of. It is shallow, yes, but even shallow works need competent directors.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11360&reviewer=247
originally posted: 01/02/05 03:27:45
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User Comments

10/04/12 keith miron Buy the soundtrack instead ! 2 stars
5/09/11 Stephanie One of my favorites. Beautifully done and sung. Super moving. 5 stars
8/27/09 julie Loved it! Gerard Butler is so sexy! 5 stars
1/15/09 Anonymous. beautiful singing, emmy rossum really shines :] 4 stars
11/29/08 Samantha Pruitt great music, good acting, great visuals, the end was sooo sad! 4 stars
5/06/08 Luci<3 Gerard's way of singing so gutterally and beautiful made a great asset to the Phantom. 5 stars
4/30/08 Lillyshell I have seen this movie several time, I bought the movie. It is great, Music and acting. 5 stars
3/18/08 David Cohen Over-the-top tale of a whiny, murderous extortionist, what's not to like? Everything! 2 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann Remember,this comes from a man who made Jesus & cats sing in Broadway musicals.Be warned!!! 1 stars
10/14/07 fools&#9835;gold O, Webber in all his boringness and out-of-date-dness. 1 stars
9/04/07 shinn so brilliant ,awesome ,unique TO ALL: just understand the movie ,you1l see it!! OK!! 5 stars
8/13/07 Annonomiss Cinematography and lighting were spectacular.Acting overly dramatic.Bursting into song-Ug! 1 stars
8/12/07 Mary Beth Loved this movie! The reviewer is an idiot. 5 stars
8/04/07 TANCP It was alright. Phantom's make up and personality were too weak though. The stage is better 4 stars
6/24/07 R.W. Welch Good yarn and score but overlong and overdone. C+ 3 stars
4/28/07 clare this is the best movie ever, all the critics reviews are stupid. 5 stars
3/10/07 swtangel great movie, excellent music. 4 stars
2/27/07 Stanley Thai One great musical but not many interesting songs. 5 stars
1/15/07 Idina Badly sung, badly acted and TERRIBLY directed. 1 stars
1/09/07 Amanda Everything about the film was outstanding! Loved Every minute of it! 5 stars
1/03/07 sargon I watched this film stoned as fuck and I still realized it was quality, surefire shit. 1 stars
11/26/06 sirina good movie though why fight over her she is so ugly! 4 stars
10/24/06 Anne Well this was my first real exposure to Phantom, and I thought it was easy to understand. 5 stars
10/02/06 Danielle It sucked! They couldn't sing! Read the book it had almost no romance. 1 stars
9/22/06 marni The only problem I had with it is the fact that Emmy Rossum dosen't sing properly. 5 stars
9/01/06 Clare Michaud I thoought that this movie was fabulous the music was unbelievable. I am a huge fan. 5 stars
8/28/06 Griselle The movie was awesome, and the actors did a stupendes job. I'm a really big fan. 5 stars
8/15/06 xxx A beautiful musical! I absoultly loved it! 5 stars
8/13/06 Addi Sad Phantom fan here- liked 2 scenes; hated the off-key singing 2 stars
8/09/06 Dragon The Artist 1st 1/2, exquisite,2nd 1/2, not how he became the phantom;took me out of the film. 2 stars
5/28/06 Ash I found the movie as exciting as the theater shows. 5 stars
5/27/06 kay one of the greatest musicals i've ever seen 5 stars
5/18/06 drydock54321 something a romantic would love 4 stars
5/14/06 Elaine Fulford I've seen this film about 40 times now, and it still appeals to me. My 9 & 4 year olds love 5 stars
5/09/06 sweetgrrl1972 *cringe* This movie is cheesier than cheddar, except not in a good way. 1 stars
4/12/06 Susan I think it is one of my favorite movies of all time. 5 stars
4/06/06 Troy M. Grzych Pretty true to the broadway musical, but drags at times. 4 stars
3/07/06 Katie Beautiful music. Gerald Butler was a great phantom 4 stars
2/10/06 Neil Outstanding...a marvel in its own right...a lush Gothic romance based on famous novel... 5 stars
1/29/06 the laughing man One of the best films I have ever seen. 5 stars
1/12/06 Tiffany Love love love it. The movie does everything that they TRY to do on stage...great job! 5 stars
1/04/06 LRWN An unbelieveably outstanding film! 5 stars
11/12/05 Rebecca Davies It was absolutely beautiful I luved it! 5 stars
10/16/05 E jimenez Gorgeous film. The best musical movie I have ever seen. 5 stars
10/03/05 Paige Emmy is my romotel and the phantom is so hot 5 stars
9/30/05 chang great! 5 stars
9/25/05 Joan R I absolutely loved this film. Gerard Butler made a truly wonderful Phantom. 5 stars
9/17/05 Abbey this was one of the best movies have ever seen 5 stars
9/15/05 Samantha Schaeffer it fucking sucked....just kidding it was awsome 1 stars
9/13/05 ann coloma it's really great and heart-warming 5 stars
9/01/05 Alyse Pilcher the best movie EVER!!!! 5 stars
8/28/05 Emma Dunham Fantastic!! there no amount of words to explain the brilliance of this Film 5 stars
8/05/05 Karleigh I think it is the best movie in the world... I loved it 5 stars
7/15/05 montanya@bellsouth.net loved the show loved the movie more 5 stars
7/05/05 Becky Hamman Absolutely wonderful movie! I love Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, and Patrick Wilson! 5 stars
6/22/05 Lucy This movie was wonderful compared to the Broadway version. Excellent acting and script 5 stars
6/18/05 Tasha EXCELLENT 5 stars
6/07/05 Callie Coulson This movie was great it was so fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/04/05 aryiel superb 5 stars
6/03/05 amanda carpio the new movie is an awesome movie! i enjoyed it and roul is really hot! :) and the phantom 5 stars
5/31/05 Steve Melenwick Silly critics. What did they expect for a movie version. It Satisfies. 3 stars
5/30/05 Carol Price It have been a Better movie if Gerard Butler did only act and not sing 3 stars
5/29/05 Danielle I loved it. The music, the actors, evrything was incredible 5 stars
5/28/05 Suffering Spouse Excruciatingly awful 1 stars
5/26/05 Gunit worst film ever. 1 stars
5/26/05 Jazz Main casts all sucked! Y is everyone whining in this movie? Xpecially Christine n Phantom 1 stars
5/24/05 Candice DeGon Man i take drama for a class and i really loved this movie, it was beautiful! Bravo! 5 stars
5/24/05 Tara Adkins I think the movie was great and I dont think that you guys know what your talking about 5 stars
5/23/05 T.S Beautiful. It took my breath away. Love, excitement, tragety amd sorrow.I loved it. 5 stars
5/23/05 Bradley Love it!! Completely awesome. Everyone even does their own singing cept Carlotta.(Driver) 5 stars
5/16/05 od thrillingly, excruciatingly awesome!!!!!! 5 stars
5/16/05 sofi absolutly amazing! A must see! 5 stars
5/10/05 The Phantom Phreak Gaston Leroux would probably like it--'nuff said. 5 stars
5/09/05 Meggie (Insert Profanity Here) I can't believe what I just read! It was a wonderful film 5 stars
5/08/05 roy butcher a bit of an endurance test 3 stars
5/06/05 Anna I loved the stage play, and parts of the movie are beautiful. Parts. 2 stars
5/05/05 ELI W/e!!!!! I don't care if they can't act. Emmy and Patrick are AWSOME! 4 stars
5/04/05 Arion Smith Butler's Phantom awesome-beautiful voice, wonderfully acted, see it and judge for yourself. 5 stars
5/03/05 Louise its excellent you cold hearted critic 5 stars
5/03/05 Anna Shipper if someone enjoys musicals, this is the film for you + Butler is AWESOME as the Phantom 5 stars
5/02/05 Kristina Williams it DID NOT suck. I've never seen the damn play and I LOVED it. 5 stars
4/25/05 david troop brilliant 4 stars
4/23/05 B Stack The reviewers are blind to a good movie and talented stars. This was an A+ 5 stars
4/21/05 stani my favourite film.The best film of all. 5 stars
4/20/05 Elena Erofeeva No acting at all by the main personages 1 stars
4/19/05 Dolores DiCenzo Boring, awful 1 stars
4/14/05 Sparko Emmy Rossum can't act;she's too ugly 1 stars
3/28/05 Tyrantis Sucked the spirit of the play and the book right out. 1 stars
3/25/05 Denise so good 5 stars
3/22/05 Victoria Ross I enjoyed it, although live was better 4 stars
3/09/05 Fake Name Here Phanaticly adore it. 5 stars
3/06/05 Dani Dani i loved it! best movie ever music was awesome it was so sad but so beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
3/06/05 Doris Nelson I loved it. Thought it was great. Saw the stage production in Chicago twice 5 stars
3/04/05 Sid Savillo/Novelist/Scriptwriter The Desire for Lust or for the sake of attention was for the Phantom; Raoul has True Love. 5 stars
2/25/05 Brandy I thought it was visually beautiful but a little long-winded. 4 stars
2/21/05 Amber Hammerschmidt Though GBs voice may not be astounding it is good for the role, and his acting was astoundi 5 stars
2/21/05 Racquel It was the BEST MOVIE Gerard Butler gave an Extrordinary Performance!!!!!! 5 stars
2/20/05 Steve Michaud Recommended only for fans of the stage show; others would do well to stay away 3 stars
2/19/05 Zoorah Awesome moving film 5 stars
2/14/05 sarah wade Best musical I've ever seen. Gerard is so georgous. 5 stars
2/14/05 barbara smith I thought the music was absolutely enchanting. the movie itself gave me goosebumps! 5 stars
2/14/05 BrianWilly I liked it, I thought it was great. 5 stars
2/13/05 M Sands you guys who thinks its crap you no nothing about musicals,rouge was awfully pathetic 5 stars
2/12/05 Sylvia Belle great movie 5 stars
2/11/05 Jason I loved it, I've seen it 5 times so far!!! 5 stars
2/09/05 David Bennett High Production values 3 stars
2/08/05 Lisa Jochelson I am a fan of the play, so while the movie wasn't great, it wasn't too bad either. 3 stars
2/07/05 Kristy Edwards This was the best movie! I saw it 5 times, and will buy the movie the day it comes out!!! 5 stars
2/05/05 Dan Carter I dont no why everyone slates this film, its fantastic, best musical film in years 5 stars
2/01/05 Lynde Foy Not my cup of tea 1 stars
1/31/05 Danita Berg I guess you love it or hate it. I loved it. 5 stars
1/31/05 beth LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! 5 stars
1/29/05 Gretchen Lowe Best movie I've seen all year, I cried when it turned to color in the beginning. Great! 5 stars
1/27/05 Heather Charles You get more out of it than the play. It is a wonderful movie. 5 stars
1/25/05 bob The is the greatest movie I have ever seen 5 stars
1/23/05 brittney i absolutely loved this movie! I fell in love with the music and the costumes. 5 stars
1/23/05 Nick Awesome 5 stars
1/22/05 Kim Everything about the movie was magical! It made going to the movies worth going again! 5 stars
1/22/05 jynn i thought the movie had no impact at all.. nice music, but it was empty. 2 stars
1/21/05 Kristina Williams Why are critics ragging this flick? I just saw it twice in a row and LOVED it! 5 stars
1/20/05 Kish Harris Absolutely fantastic. have seen it 4 times. Sets and music sumptious , phantom gorgeous!!!! 5 stars
1/18/05 Maureen Great movie! 5 stars
1/17/05 Kyle Beston I thought it was a total crap but it turned out to be one of the best films i have ever saw 5 stars
1/15/05 Neutrino What's wrong with you people? It's stunning masterpiece!!! Emmy Rossum just an angel. 5 stars
1/13/05 Yellow Best movie I've seen in 2004/05 (so far) 5 stars
1/13/05 Jeanette Myers Excellent Music 4 stars
1/11/05 Stacey Peachfuzz Not even "funny" bad; just plain miserable. Nice high notes, Gerard. [vomit sound] 1 stars
1/10/05 pam If you don't like the music, then don't go see it. I thought it was great. 5 stars
1/09/05 Kathryn Critics are the ones who blow! I've seen it 5 times!!! 5 stars
1/09/05 Lee I totally loved it - from the breathtaking scenery to Butler as Phantom 5 stars
1/08/05 Allison Couldn't be better - love Gerard Butler 5 stars
1/07/05 Mel Better than Chicago. 5 stars
1/06/05 TyrantisTerror If you don't have a good phantom in THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, you don't have a good movie. 2 stars
1/06/05 Nessa Fantastic movie! Erik Childress is a dickhead 5 stars
1/06/05 Green Gremlin a great musical is trashed. 2 stars
1/05/05 Naka Oh, hell no. 1 stars
1/05/05 Banzai Overzealous phanatics are nuts. This film is blatantly terrible. 1 stars
1/05/05 Roger Johnson Critics are nuts. The film is fantastic. 5 stars
1/04/05 Kim Anderson not a note of real music in 2 and a quarter hours. 1 stars
1/04/05 Colleen Actually quite good, and i usually dont like film adaptations of musicals. 4 stars
1/04/05 Jim R. Hands down, the most underrated film of the year. 5 stars
1/04/05 TomF Tim Rice had NOTHING to do with this - this is Webber's baby 2 stars
1/04/05 skeweditalian Les Miz can kick POTO's ass any day of the week 1 stars
1/04/05 Cat A film about a Phantom of the Opera that can't SING!!! 1 stars
1/03/05 PLou I was captivated from beginning to end. The artistry & cinematography were awesome. 5 stars
1/03/05 mickey c If you're a fan of the musical - you'll love it! And that's how it should be!!! 5 stars
12/31/04 Alice Ahlers too much of everything except emotion and not enough of that 1 stars
12/30/04 TyrantisTerror The only problem I had with this movie was how the phantom was portrayed. 2 stars
12/27/04 Deanna In Indiana Phan-atics will adore, and we know a good musical 5 stars
12/26/04 charles kaye enjoyed moviemusic and plot 4 stars
12/26/04 Bleh Pure crap. 1 stars
12/25/04 DM A disappointment, but really not all that bad. 3 stars
12/24/04 frank awsome 5 stars
12/24/04 jcjs something lacking for sure 3 stars
12/24/04 chris shoot me... i adored it 5 stars
12/23/04 mike awesome film. Brilliant. Phenominal. 5 stars
12/22/04 Daveman Dreadful, recommended only to Webber die-hards... and you people are weird anyway. 1 stars
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  22-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-May-2005



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