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
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.
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.