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Phantom of the Opera


Based on the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Christine must choose between Raoul and her singing teacher, the Phantom. Meanwhile, the Phantom terrifies the rest of the opera house cast.

What I Thought

I have recently become a tea snob. I don't drink coffee, wine, nor do C programming. So I need something to be a snob about. But watching this movie I've found that I've also become a snob about Broadway musicals. I mention this because it's important to understand my reaction to this movie.

Phantom of the Opera was the first musical I ever saw, way back in college when I was 20 (you know this is going to be a long review if I start out like that).

Like millions of others, I liked the music, the good singing, and the fun special effects. But as I attended more and more musicals, I was brought to an understanding:

Andrew Lloyd Webber is the McDonald's of musicals.

McDonald's, Burger King, and all the others are chemically designed from the ground-up to taste good. In fact, the flavors in EVERYTHING come from a flavor laboratory in New Jersey (where you can literally have a french fry-tasting jelly bean and swear it is a cold, round, chewy, McD's fry). There's nothing wrong with that since, after all, it's engineered to taste as good to the human palate as possible.

However, just like with human actors vis a vis CGI actors and Tom Cruise, you end up yearning for some of that imperfection and quirkiness that a cookie-cutter engineered food product may not give you.

Yes, the musical. Ahem.

As you get older and more experienced, the palate becomes more sophisticated. It's not to say that the palate cannot appreciate Burger King or a Schwarzenegger action flick, but you begin to notice other fare. The Cheesecake Factory is no longer a "great restaurant" but rather a "fair to middling fast food joint with a large menu and tasteless cheesecakes" which you're happy to visit once in a while but your appetite has been whetted for French-Cambodian fusion or a particularly juicy filet mignon.

It's before lunch and I'm hungry.

The musical.

Phantom of the Opera (the musical) is designed from the ground up to make you cry, gasp, laugh. When the thing that happens with the chandelier happens, or when Music of the Night is sung, you can't help but get some chills. A Burger King fry is totally tasty too. Yumm!


Unfortunately, all that is gone in the movie version. This movie is almost word-for-word and scene-for-scene from the musical. The only two changes are 2 or 3 small forward-flashes to peer into the future in black & white, and they move the chandelier bit further down (normally it's in the middle at the end of Act 1 before the Masquerade).

But it's a movie. No live music, no special effects. No chills from a live performance. Think about what's left over from a Whopper or Big Mac if you remove the taste... wilted lettuce, smushy patty, and underripe tomatoes.

The lip-synching is abominable. The actual version of the music is OK, I've heard better versions of it. The acting is atrocious with the notable exception of Minnie Driver who plays Carlotta the Diva. She is hilarious, giving a great over-the-top and almost parodying performance. I was looking forward to each scene with her. This is the only character to get an interpretation rather than a straight transfer-from-musical-to-screen treatment.

If you liked the musical and the CD, you may like the movie (depending on how big a snob you are). But I couldn't help but feel it needed more cheese.



All photos and text copyright Ryszard Kilarski, unless otherwise noted. Clip art, drawings, paintings are either free domain or copyrighted by the artists.