Thursday, June 6, 2013

Les Miserables (2012) - Review

Much like everything in life, my knowledge of musicals is pretty limited.  I'm a huge fan of the Buffy musical, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and I even like the Scrubs musical.  Sweeney Todd is a solid one too... but other than that, I can't say I'm an expert on the genre.  But apparently this is one of the biggest ones.  Who knew?  I would have said CATS; at least they got referenced by School of Rock, a contemporary classic.

The plot spans several decades, mostly around former prisoner turned mayor, Jean Valjean, played brilliantly by Hugh Jackman.  It's not that the acting performance is that brilliant; pretty standard Jackman.  He's good, sure, but nothing amazing.  But man, does the guy have a great voice.  He really sells the whole first 30 minutes of the movie when it's pretty much a one-man show.  Then we have Russell Crowe as the villain.  He gives a passionate and dedicated performance as well, but his voice is a bit more... nasally?  Not awful, but distinctly worse than Jackman's.  Maybe that was a character choice, but I'm just going to assume the more likely option that it's just how Crowe sounds.

The rest of the cast is fine, although nothing special.  That goes for much of the rest of the movie: good, not great.  The most powerful moments are either early on with just Jackman or showing the great dynamic between Jackman and Crowe.  Everyone else is either a distraction, or just feels out of place.  This is particularly evident with Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter who seem to be playing their usual schtick.  I'm sure it was meant to be sort of a one-off joke segment or something in the original musical, but here it just seems wrong.

But other than that, there's really only one major flaw with the film (which likely also stems back to the original work): the singsong dialogue.  Now, I'm no musical expert, but traditionally, I do believe that most musicals have regular dialogue, and then songs.  Well, this film makes the mistake of all dialogue being singsongy.  Kind of like the actors made of the melody for the unimportant bits of talking on the spot or something.  It's sort of hard to explain, but if you've seen the movie, you know what I mean.  It's really distracting, and frankly, kind of bad.  It's not too hard to look past, but there's no reason that some actual spoken dialogue couldn't have replaced the singsongy nonsense.  Besides that, however, it's a strong film.  Perhaps not worthy of all the praise it's gotten.  Maybe something I'll never watch again.  But for the few hours after I watched it, I felt a little better.  And that's something.

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