As you might expect, a movie ostentatiously labeled “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s” anything isn’t going to stray too far from its theatrical source. And so, unsurprisingly, if you love the Broadway extravaganza with the crashing chandelier and the flaming gaslamps and the overpriced souvenir T-shirts and the snowglobes with the Phantom’s white mask sitting on fake black velvet, you’ll love Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. For it is indeed a cheesy snowglobe of a movie, pretty and tinkly, with tinny windup music. This is a movie that raccoons will steal to weave into their nests, it’s that ooh-
If, on the other hand, you consider the Broadway extravaganza nothing more than a theme-
But you knew that already.
It’s a good thing Gaston Leroux is dead, because this movie adaptation of his 1911 novel would have killed him (if the stage production hadn’t already, of course). “Where is the sexy danger?” Leroux would ask with his French accent that almost no one has here, even though this is supposed to be Paris. “Where is the seduction?” Not here, even if Gerard Butler as the Phantom is trying, though I may be projecting a bit because Butler makes my toes curl in the most delicious way. Butler actually has got a lot of talent (which everyone will see if the wonderful Scottish film Dear Frankie ever gets released) despite getting stuck mostly in crappy movies like this one and Timeline and Lara Croft’s Boobs 2, and he can exude dark, bad-
Yeah, the Phantom is a total nutball, skulking around the subterranean caverns under the Paris Opera House, tutoring budding singer Christine from the shadows, cuz he’s a musical genius, see? She’s a bit dim and thinks it’s the “angel of music” who’s guiding her, but still, she’s supposed to be irresistibly drawn to him, and who wouldn’t be? He dresses in black, has his own underground lair, even has his own theme music, excruciatingly insipid as it may be. The problem is — and this may be my favorite bad thing about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera — that Christine is played by Emmy Rossum (The Day After Tomorrow, Mystic River), whose completely immobile plastic face just doesn’t move, not at all, not ever. Surely director Joel Schumacher (Veronica Guerin, Phone Booth) didn’t set out to make a theme-
I mean, sure, if you intend to make a safe, bland, boring, thoroughly desexualized movie, then you will want to go ahead with the Emmy Rossum plan, make sure you get an actress who cannot emote and so comes across as a fickle, shallow little bint, who swoons in the glow of the Phantom’s attentions (because it says to do that in the script!) and then, when she can’t deal with a little scar tissue even on the Angel of Music, decides that she prefers her own plastic people and runs into the arms of opera patron Robot– er, Raoul (Patrick Wilson: The Alamo), who doesn’t even have his own theme music or anything. I mean sure, if you’re trying to avoid upsetting folk at a time in which a large portion of the public would rather sex didn’t exist, that male/
But then other questions arise, most prominently: Why cast Butler if you’re not gonna let him do what he can do? Even I have to admit from within my lust-
Really, the only honest reaction to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera is to misquote George Hamilton in Love at First Bite: Music of the night, shut up!