Review: The Phantom of the Opera

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The phenomenon that is the musical "The Phantom of the Opera" is something not a lot of people understand. But the select few who used to crank the CD of the music and play air-guitar to the guitar riffs throughout the musical's title theme know what I am talking about. Are you a closet "Phantom" fan?

Well sadly, back in the late 1980s, I was one of those who used to feel the music of "Phantom". Sure, I was told that it wasn't Webber's greatest musical, but I really didn't care.

Now nearly 20 years after I saw "Phantom", the film version of the classic musical comes to a multiplex near you.

The story is a classic one about a young opera singer named Christine (Emmy Rossum) who is enchanted by a mysterious masked stranger, The Phantom (Gerard Butler), who is haunts the Paris Opera House. The Phantom promises her that he can train her to be incredible and that nothing will stand in their way. Well, that is until the love between Christine and childhood lover Raoul (Patrick Wilson) is reawakened and Christine is forced to make a choice.

"Phantom", the musical, was never about the story but about how the music told the story and the huge spectacle that the production became. So many bright moments in a delicious array of music picked this story up and made it something special.

This is where Phantom, the film, seems to lose the impact of the stage production. There is a lot of interruption of the musical numbers, added scenes, a whole new song, and even a scene where the music plays but no one sings. We never feel the plight of any of the characters or ever get past the gigantic visual assault that is director Joel Schumacher's over-use of plush design. Did there really have to be that much pink and gold?

I was impressed with Emmy Rossum's incredible range of voice, but felt that in some scenes she was just too high for some of us to understand what she was saying. Rossum is a great talent, but she is still searching for the perfect project to make her a star.

Opposite to Rossum was my interpretation of Gerard Butler as The Phantom. His range lacked, his disfigured makeup made me think more about pasta than horror or pain, and not for one moment did I feel an ounce of pity for this man. Well maybe for the actor, himself.

I was, however, quite impressed with the singing of Patrick Wilson's Raoul. He seemed to be the most credible of the bunch. His scenes with Rossum are a lot more magical than anything Butler can muster.

For this thing to work you need to feel for the musical's central figures, but everything I felt was just hollow.

There were some things I did enjoy. I loved the opening sequence, the singing scenes with CiarĂ¡n Hinds and Simon Callow, and some bits and pieces throughout. But for the most part, I was quite disappointed that so many liberties were taken to bring this musical to the screen.

The liberties I would have to blame on director Joel Schumacher, who once more hasn't learned that less is more. Did he not learn this from Batman and Robin? You would at least think the studio would have.

I do wonder what people who haven't witnessed this musical live will think and take away from this telling. But if it was me, I'd skip the movie and crank up my CD one more time. (3 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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