Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera Movie Review

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Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals are garish, puerile melodramas with all the elegance and sincerity of a Super Bowl halftime show -- and his brash, brassy songs have the depth and nuance of action-movie explosions.

Director Joel Schumacher was responsible for one of the most tawdry, terribly cliché-riddled action-movie bombs in Hollywood history -- 1997's "Batman and Robin."

When this pair teamed up to bring Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" to the big screen, it was a match made in hell.

A film of gross overacting and overproduced grandeur, yet one without a scrap of digestible character, "Phantom" opens with young and lovely understudy soprano Christine Daae (Emmy Rossum, "The Day After Tomorrow") already under the spell of an obsessed, half-handsome, half-disfigured psycho who lives underneath the most grandiose opera house in 1889 Paris.

Although she's never seen the Phantom (Gerard Butler), over the years she's been in the chorus he has secretly taught her, night after night in the bowels of the building, to "Sing my angel! Sing for meeeeee!" So when the joint's conspicuously talentless, tantrum-throwing Italian diva (Minnie Driver) refuses to perform one night, Christine takes her place, setting in motion a string of events that lead to the girl's star rising and the Phantom's jealousy boiling.

With no story arc to speak of, the characters are left to wander in and out of loosely connected set pieces: Christine gets engaged to a vanilla viscount (Patrick Wilson) with the expressionless stage presence of a rag doll. The theater's matron (Miranda Richardson) is revealed to be in cahoots with the Phantom for no explored reason. Meanwhile, the scenery-chewing titular stalker rages around his incredibly lush, immaculately gaudy underground lair, singing some of the most ungainly exposition-crammed lyrics in musical history.

"You have come here for one purpose and one alone," Butler thunders to the cheap seats as the period-incongruous, ear-splitting, organ-versus-drum-set, rock-opera orchestrations swell. "Since I first heard you sing/I have needed you to serve me/to sing for my music!"

The songs are so vociferous and beyond campy that if Beavis and Butthead were theater fans, they'd have the T-shirt and would head-bang along to the soundtrack. The acting is so painfully histrionic that the closing credits surely could have run with out-takes of the cast cracking themselves up.

Yet pretty, hairy-chested Butler -- who was picked for the title role after Schumacher saw him in the schlocky "Dracula 2000" -- has no weight or portent. What he does have is a scarred face that seems to change disfigurements depending on which stylish mask he's in the mood to wear while terrorizing theater patrons.

Not a single paper-thin character is sympathetic. (Wide-eyed Rossum does her best with Christine, but who can care about a girl so easily entranced and manipulated by the men in her life?) Schumacher's aimless storytelling fails to find a direction until 90 minutes into the film's two-and-a-quarter hours. (The silent 1925 "Phantom" starring Lon Cheney was only 93 minutes, and too long at that.) And Webber's plot is often nonsensical, even the parts that aren't full of narrative holes. Why do the theater owners refuse to let Christine sing their show's lead again, despite threats from the Phantom and even though she's a bigger hit than their star?

But even if "Phantom of the Opera" weren't a sensory assault of cinematic excess, it would still be missing one of the primary draws of the stage hit: the audience's own role in the production, most notably when the theater's grand chandelier is sent crashing down by the enraged Phantom. Here Schumacher must provide a surrogate audience in an on-screen theater, which diminishes the impact of everything that takes place on the opera stage.

Feel free to take this review with a grain of salt if you're someone who doesn't have a pre-determined loathing for Webber's inflated theatrics, inharmonious melodies and unsophisticated libretto. But even if "Phantom" worked for you on stage, just remember this picture is made with hell-bent gusto by the guy who put nipples on Batman's superhero costume. So consider yourself warned.

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mawmaw1973@aol.com's picture

mawmaw1973@aol.com

I have never read such Rubbish in all of my life . You apperantly dont know Great acting when you see it . I Loved this movie and all of the actrors where Great . Gerard Butler is one of the most brillant actors I have see in awhile , he adds so much emotion to the story line His looks ,his voice are what made this movie so Fantasic.

8 years 7 months ago
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DRAMAQUEEN's picture

DRAMAQUEEN

I think maybe this critic was not viewing the film with an open mind - he clearly hates musicals, especially ones by ALW! So his views are not worth their weight in salt. I have just watched the stage version in London which was excellent as all live performances are, but the film is so sexually charged and there's a lot more love/pity/lust from Christine for the Phantom - I have to confess I would like to see the film version put on stage!!

8 years 1 month ago
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phantomreddeath777's picture

phantomreddeath777

i completly agree with u nightmusic, It was a wonderful movie and anyone who doesn't realize it. Don't have any taste at all.

9 years 5 months ago
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theRIGHTcritic05's picture

theRIGHTcritic05

The horrendous review by Rob Blackwelder on the brilliantly mastered Phantom of the Opera was, to say lightly, as if he hadn't even watched the movie. It's a shame that such an enchanting and beautiful film has such a bad reputation... and it's because of critics like these. It doesn't take a genious to piece the strong storyline of the movie together. With actors meant for their parts, this work of art will be treasured for many years to come by all types of people. Rob Blackwelder stated that, "The songs are so vociferous and beyond campy that if Beavis and Butthead were theater fans, they'd have the T-shirt and would head-bang along to the soundtrack." On the contrary, the music fits perfectly with the passion of the movie and actors. I write this with sincerity and honesty...this movie gets 5 stars!

9 years 5 months ago
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Webber/musicfan's picture

Webber/musicfan

I so disagree with the reviewer. Have been a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber's music for years. Have seen the Phantom on stage in New York and was excited to see the film. I thought it exceeded my expectations with the music, costumes, sets, and the actors. I think Gerard make an excellent phantom and added much sex appeal to the role. So, mr reviewer, my opinion is that you just dont appreciate this type of music.

7 years 7 months ago
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Eriks Rose's picture

Eriks Rose

Come on, it was agood film. So Gerard Butler wasn't a singer but he did a damn good job! Emmy Rossum was beautifully tragic and Raoul was so believable. I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea, and it is better on stage interaction wise but it's a good film, very well made, perfectly cast and beautiful. And one thing, if you're going to be a critic, you don't refer to bad films made by the director, especially when he's done good ones, and you show both sides of the argument. If you ask me, this film needs a new critic.

8 years 6 months ago
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Phanphorlife's picture

Phanphorlife

The fact that you, Mr. Blackwelder, were so untouched by the beauty, emotion, and just plain lusciousness of this amazing movie speaks volumes to me about what kind of a person you must be. (to quote a line from the movie, "Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known?" to create such hateful and negative thoughts...)What exactly was it about the movie that threatened you so much that you felt the need to cover your insecurities by spitting out all that venom? You're obviously out of touch with reality, first of all, or maybe you live in a parallel universe, where what you think you see is, in reality, exactly the opposite of what is really there....because, as others have mentioned already, the movie you've described and criticized is absolutely, most positively not, the same one that I saw when I went to the theater!!!

9 years 5 months ago
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FlukeAlot's picture

FlukeAlot

Yes, it was an overstylised piece of cinematic excess, but to consider a film bad simply because of its excesses would be an egregious fallecy.I can understand where the critic stands in his brutal assessment of the film for its lack of ability to have a plausible premise, flowing narrative or indeed, believable characters, but that, as one may say, is the point. If a strong narrative and plausible characters are essential elements to a decent film, then filmmakers like Kubrick, Tarantino, Bunuel, Lynch, or indeed, anyone who has dared to experiment or touch the surreal would have all been considered long forgotten hacks.The strength of Phantom, as with many other films, is its spectacle. It does not establish emotional connections through character or narrative, but through sheer style. It draws emotional response from the audience through specific image and sound combinations, rather than through characterisation or plot. True, it is riddled with flaws, with problems in pace and overacting in certain respects, and yes, the plot is wafer thin. But the cinematography was competently handled, the music exquisite, and in my view, it was certainly not deserving of the brutual treatment that was handed to it by this critic.

9 years 4 weeks ago
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Gabriele C Thyen's picture

Gabriele C Thyen

To Mr. Blackwelder:after reading your vitriolic assessment of 'Andrew Lloyd Webber's' music, and derisive comments about 'Joel Schumacher' and 'Phantom of the Opera' in particular -no doubt stemming from an unimaginative, closed mind -I want to convey a brief message, that the great composer 'Ludwig van Beethoven' once sent to one of his most vicious critics:" Sir! I am sitting in the most private room of my house with your critique in front of me... soon I will have it behind me!"To that I might add: in those days, a Newspaper was the frequently used paper of choice for toilets!Respectfully... Gabriele C.Thyen

9 years 5 months ago
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wolfe's picture

wolfe

Mr. Blackwelder I do not agree with one word you said.I loved this movie!!!!!!!!!!!!!I think it was exceptional.I felt the actors and actresses did a spendid job.I was completely and utterly taken witht he Gerard Butler's portrayal of the Phantom. He kept me spell bound and moved me to the depths of the deepest emotions. He was superb!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!His acting and singing magnificent and yes, HE CAN SING!!!!!!!!!!!ALW, Joel, they di da great job with casting.Not a boring moment. What movie were you watching anyway? Not the same one as I was that is for sure.This movie rocked!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

9 years 5 months ago
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Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Wednesday, December 22, 2004

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