Phantom of the Opera (2004)

I realized Phantom of the Opera is a totally nutty film when the electric guitars started up.

Okay, so I know the musical is hardly historically accurate. For one thing, they didn't sing Andrew Lloyd Webber back then, but I'm willing to exercise an enormous suspension of disbelief with musicals. Still, when the Phantom, that musically-obsessed dude, started rowing Christine to his lair and the electric guitars chimed in, well, all I could think was: talk about being ahead of his time. No wonder Christine is all gooey and enthralled: he's an early member of Kiss!

Which doesn't mean that the movie isn't a hoot and a half. For one thing, the Phantom is young and super attractive, which always floats my boat (in fact, he is so attractive, when Christine pulls off his mask, you sit there going, "Huh? So the guy has a bad sunburn--what's the prob?") For another, you've got Minnie Driver and a huge cast of thousands overacting all over the place (Minnie Driver is always fun). And there's a scene in a graveyard (a solo that, like most second act songs, goes on FOREVER) and a sword fight and that big chandelier (I always pictured it as falling straight down; I must say the film's version of a slowly descending side-ways catastrophe is much more impressive) and lots of pounding chords. Not to mention the lair and the water and all the grids. Kind of like what Titanic could have been if James Cameron hadn't wanted you to feel bad for the 3rd class passengers.

I watched most of it with the French audio on and French subtitles. It made absolutely no difference that I couldn't understand 2/3rds of the lines. The dubbed voices are good, but the English (or rather, British) singers have a couple of things going for them. The singer who plays Christine has a vibe/depth to her voice that I always thought lacking in Brightman. (She seems fundamentally tougher than Brightman, and she is, thank goodness, wearing a lot less blue eyeshadow.) The Phantom has this kind of shouting baritone (kind of like if Richard Burton had sung opera). His French dub is actually a better singer, but the English singer sounds like he is hocking spit before every line. It's a lot of fun.

The whole thing is fun. Big music! Smoke! Fire! Collasping chandeliers! Electric guitars! Lots and lots and lots of candles! Masks of various sizes and shades! Big, billowy dresses! Like many Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, the music substitutes for depth. I mean, come on, there's the Phantom's past (which is interesting) and the Phantom's own opera (which is interesting) and the Phantom's relationship to Mme Giry (which is really interesting) and instead, you get a lot of singing. *Sigh.*

However, there's something to be said for creating a psychotic, sunburnt, shouting, musically-obsessed guy in silly dress (which he wears rather well) and then, getting audiences to watch him for two hours. 

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