The Phantom of the Opera (tbc)

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Review byMatthew Turner6/12/2004

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 143 mins

Badly directed and poorly staged musical with a spectacularly awful performance from Gerard Butler – it looks pretty enough but this is strictly for fans of the stage show.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical of Gaston Leroux’s 1911 novel The Phantom of the Opera is, astonishingly, the second longest-running musical in history (surpassed only by Cats). It was huge in the 1980s, with some of its pop-opera numbers even making it into the top ten. It seems surprising, then, that it has taken this long for someone to turn it into a film - what’s perhaps less surprising is that that someone is director Joel Schumacher.

At any rate, he needn’t have bothered, because he’s made a right mess of it – it’s badly directed and poorly staged, to the point that it will only appeal to die-hard fans of the stage show.

Paris 1870…And A Clockwork Monkey

The film takes place in Paris 1870, although it’s framed by some scenes filmed in black and white that take place in 1919 and use the auctioning of a clockwork cymbal-bashing monkey as a flashback device. (The Phantom, you see, once owned the Flashback Monkey). This occasions the best visual effect in the film, where the dusty, black and white theatre suddenly bursts with vibrant colour, as if the dust is being blown off it.

Gerard Butler stars as the Phantom, a disfigured musical genius who haunts the catacombs of the opera house where he has been acting as an unseen mentor to beautiful chorus girl Christine (Emmy Rossum, from The Day After Tomorrow) for several years. However, when temperamental diva La Carlotta (Minnie Driver) strops off in the middle of a dress rehearsal, Christine is thrust into the limelight and becomes the talk of the town.

She soon finds herself courted by the theatre’s wealthy patron, the Vicomte de Chagny (Patrick Wilson). The Phantom’s not too happy about this, however, and swears revenge on, well, everyone.

Phantom Painful To Watch…Not In A Good Way

For a film like this to work, it needs strong performances at its centre and, to be fair, Emmy Rossum is excellent and handles her musical numbers well. Gerard Butler, however, is the worst thing in the film – he’s actually painful to watch and is neither scary nor sympathetic. It doesn’t help that at times he looks like Alec Baldwin on mind-altering drugs.

The other performances aren’t much better: Patrick Wilson makes a very bland romantic lead and Miranda Richardson (as Madame Giry) ruins her performance with a French accent straight out of ‘Allo ‘Allo, which is made even odder by the fact that no-one else attempts a French accent. That said, Jennifer Ellison is okay as Christine’s friend (and Schumacher has the sense to put her in thigh-length leather boots towards the end) and Minnie Driver is the best thing in the film as La Carlotta, largely because she’s the only one with the sense to camp it up.

The musical numbers are very badly staged - Schumacher barely even moves the camera for some of them and they’re flat and uninspiring as a result. It also doesn’t help that the entire film seems to consist of the same three songs repeated over and over again. You’ll undoubtedly come out humming one of them, but you’ll hate yourself for it afterwards.

Basically, despite good work from Emmy Rossum and Minnie Driver, this is strictly for die-hard devotees of the musical, although there’s a slim chance it’ll turn into one of those camp Bad Movie classics in later years.

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Content updated: 11/12/2019 23:36

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