Movie Review
The Phantom of the Opera
Phantom of the Opera poster
By Craig Younkin     Published December 25, 2004
US Release: December 22, 2004

Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Gerard Butler , Emmy Rossum , Patrick Wilson , Miranda Richardson

Running Time: 140 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $51,225,796
A really dull affair, one that has no idea what it takes to adapt a stage play into a movie musical.
"Phantom of the Opera" is a play that I know very little about, and after watching the movie I wish I could have stayed ignorant. The movie springs to life a recorded one time when the opera house holds its New Years ball, accompanied by the song "Masquerade.? The lyrics aren?t much, but the choreography and the melodious tune of the song still give it a rousing intensity. Otherwise this is a really dull affair, one that has no idea what it takes to adapt a stage play into a movie musical.

The film goes back and forth between black and white 1910 and colorized 1870. The 1870 story is key to what is going on in 1910, centering on the lovely Christine (Emmy Rossum). Christine was orphaned at a young age and taken into the Opera Populaire, where she says her father sent an Angel of Music to guide her. Only she is forced to play a background image to the overblown Carlotta (Minnie Driver), a prima donna whose voice is deafening. When Carlotta ends up quitting the latest production however, Christine is thrown into the spotlight, and with great success becomes the next big star.

Christine feels her muse or Angel has something to do with it, but it's really just a man running around the theater in a mask. He is the Phantom (Gerard Butler), a supposed genius who runs the theater through fear and killing a few people just to get the point across, making the new managers pay him every month for allowing them to use his theater. The phantom has tutored Christine in the ways of music from a very young age, putting her under his spell and also developing a serious crush on the beautiful young talent. Only when an old love affair between Christine and Raoul (Patrick Wilson) is rekindled, the Phantom becomes jealous and thirsty for vengeance.

The resurgence of movie musicals is something I have enjoyed very much. It's a genre that evokes a heavy but spirited romanticism either in love (Moulin Rouge) or celebrity (Chicago). But I don't understand the appeal of this one. The murky tone of this Andrew Lloyd Webber musical conflicts with the simple story of love and jealousy to the point that it feels like nothing more than a cheap horror movie with songs.

Director Joel Schumacher gets the full extent of the Populaire's dark shadows and underground lairs and passageways but he misses character depth, especially for the Phantom. The character is nothing more than an insecure tantrum-thrower, and if not for a flashback concerning him running away from a circus freak show I would have had no sympathy for him at all. Gerard Butler does his best, giving him a voice of rough empowerment, but Butler's singing voice isn't the strongest and just diverts attention a way from the songs.

Christine is a naive young girl, but even so, anybodyin this situation would know that it's time to switch locations. Emmy Rossum is a beautiful looking girl but her performance is stiff and her singing voice sounds the same in every scene, leaving you to wonder whether she's scared, happy, or sad. Worst of all is Raoul, played by the charm-less Patrick Wilson. He is essentially the hero here but this longhaired dreamboat is right out of incredibly bland romance novels. The only person who injects any kind of energy into this film is Minnie Driver, who seems to be having a fun time portraying an over the top character.

The songs here are also really poorly conceived and completely overshadowed by the loud musical score and lousy singing. I enjoyed Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Evita" tremendously but here the songs or basically just the ones I was able to make out never add to the experience. One in particular that was just flat out bad was "All I ask of you is that you love me.? It's cheesy, but it's not even a good form of cheesy. It's the Celine Dion form of cheesy that actually asks you to take it seriously. Worst of all, though, was whenever the characters didn?t have a song to sing and just sang back and forth conversations with one another. Nothing is more irritating than hearing someone sing "We must stop him.?

The two-hour mark was when I had to call it quits. After sitting through the murky setting, these lifeless and miscast characters, and these poor songs, I had enough to warrant a walk out. "The Phantom of the Opera" is supposedly one of the best shows of all time, but it may just be the worst movie of the year.
Craig's Grade: D
Craig's Overall Grading: 340 graded movies
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