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By Carl Overholser
The sad fact about musical movies is that, many times, they take themselves way too seriously when they should be wallowing in their inherent campiness. Think about it: a bunch of characters, in a serious situation (war, famine, trial) breaking out into song about their immediate circumstances is just kind of silly. Most modern musicals (Rock of Ages, The Muppet Movie) tend to benefit when they lock up serious, throw away the key, crank the crazy switch up to 100, and just roll with it. Sadly, Les Misérables, the latest incarnation of Victor Hugo’s redemption story, doesn’t take this crazy route and suffers dearly for it.
The story is flimsy, the music is both overabundant and boring, the story of redemption gets lost in the constant shift in themes, Hugh Jackman is forgettable, and the cameraman had a weird tendency to go from wide-angled pan shots to very extreme close-ups that negate all the decent costume design. Top it all off with the worst Older Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) in any recent iteration of this story and you have what might be the most self-important pile of nonsense I’ve ever sat through.
It’s not a complete waste if you know when to leave the theater and avoid about two hours of the run time. Anne Hathaway proves she’s worth her Oscar nomination with the best Fantine I’ve ever seen on film. And even though her older counterpart falls off the rails, Young Cosette (Isabelle Allen) exudes enough charm and one-upped her older self by being able to actually sing. Heck, if the camp route had been tried, I’m sure the movie could have coasted to a satisfying ending just by giving Javert (Russell Crowe) and Thenardier (Sacha Boren Cohen) more screen time. Both actors seemed to spend the majority of the movie as the only guys on screen having fun.
In the end, Les Misérables is just a bad movie. Yes, some of the acting is good and roughly two of the 20-plus songs were actually worth listening to. But when it comes down to giving off anything entertainment-wise, the entire movie is little more than a lot of self-indulgent nonsense masquerading as successful Oscar bait.
Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) tries to steal away another Oscar from another more deserving director with Les Misérables, a silly, somewhat well-cast, overlong soundtrack video that wants you to take it seriously. After spending 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread, Jean Valjean (Jackman) tries to atone for his past and make the world a better place through helping the poor, taking care of a woman he wronged (Hathaway), raising a daughter (Allen/Seyfried) that isn’t his, and singing with an extremely serious face.
My score: 4/10.