Thank goodness I don't have to type ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER'S THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA every time I talk about this film--the creator's name doesn't actually appear in the title.
Nevertheless, it's Webber's PHANTOM that we're dealing with here. I was fortunate enough to see the show in San Francisco with my wife-to-be some ten years ago. No Michael Crawford, but we got Franc D'Ambrosio (Pacino's son in GODFATHER III) as the Phantom, and he was just fine. And so was the show--it deserves its reputation even if the hardcore horror fans find it somehow "wimpy." You know damn well it's not a "horror" show--it's a lavish, spectacular, romantic musical--and that's what they go for in this new movie, naturally.
Of course, a huge part of the appeal of the live show is watching the stage transform before your very eyes--here, they get to use computers, editing and other cheats. So the movie's ALWAYS going to be second-best. But it still looks absolutely smashing. Gerard Butler does well by the Phantom (hope he's grateful--he's also had the chance to play Dracula)--and Emmy Rossum is equally fine as Christina (oh, and Minnie Driver is a hoot as the diva La Carlotta). And this stage would seem to be the perfect place to turn Joel Schumacher loose--it goes perfectly well with his tendency to go overboard on everything (remember how he kept trying to break free of the single set of PHONE BOOTH, for instance? Or how he tried to make a HUGE deal out of 8MM?). But wouldn't you know it--the world still isn't big enough for Schumacher.
The show is represented quite faithfully and spectacularly for the most part. But as soon as we hit the terrific "masked ball" sequence, then it's time for a detour. We get a flashback to the Phantom's childhood as a circus freak (hardly necessary). Then we get an extra musical number in a snowy cemetery--followed by an extra SWORD FIGHT between the Phantom and Raul! At this point, I'm asking "Why not a CAR CHASE while you're at it?" The screenplay is credited to both Webber and Schumacher--so you can guess who was behind this bit of business.
Yeah, things get kind of back on track--you get the wonderful chandelier crash and all that jazz--but the detour the film takes makes the whole damn thing grind to a halt, and the magic just never quite returns once the spell has been broken.
If you're GOING to see it (and you'd better hurry--this thing's tanking worse than DARKNESS), then do yourself a favor and see it on the big screen. With a date. Look for romance--enjoy what horror you do get (yes, they preserved the swinging corpse interrupting the show and all that)--and know just when to take your restroom break.
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