This reviewer is familiar with the musical show, having heard it, thanks to friends and family who have owned the show soundtrack, well over a hundred times over the past sixteen years, but without the benefit of a libretto, never quite understanding half of the lyrics, simply nodding my head in mock appreciation of the score, wondering what I might need to get from the market or have to do on my next day off from work. For, if one cannot comprehend the story being told in song, one will simply lose interest. Sitting here, writing this notice while reviewing the lyrics to some of the songs (like “Masquerade,” for which the title of the song was, more often than not, the only word in the song understood), I never knew just how much of the show’s back-story I was missing. But by this time, any renewed interest has been offset by the remembrances of the two times a momentary of sleep was induced due to the plodding, lifeless direction of the film.
In order to be fair, one must admit the effort is not a complete waste. The film works on many technical levels. Anthony Pratt’s sets for the Paris Opera House and the Phantom’s lair, the two locations where almost all of the film takes place, are triumphs of design, a rich recreation of an era of bravura opulence long lost, as are Alexandra Byrne’s lush and colorful period costumes. Emmy Rossum, whose resplendent beauty is equal to her magnificent voice, is the glue which holds the whole affair together, as the young chorus Christine Daae, who holds in her hands both the hearts of Raoul de Chagny (Patrick Wilson), the wealthy patron of the opera house, and the Phantom of the Opera (Gerald Butler), a disfigured man who considers the opera house to be his own private fiefdom. Both male leads are competent enough in their roles, and it’s always a pleasure to see Miranda Richardson in any role, here playing the matron of the opera house’s young charges and the only person who knows the secret of the Phantom. And, for once, someone has finally cast Minnie Driver in a role that she can make her own, that of the hyper diva who goes into hysterics at any perceived slight, although the over-the-top Italian accent and painfully obviously Marni Nixon-ish re-dubbed singing voice greatly diminish Ms. Driver’s performance.
“Phantom” fans are sure to love every moment of this admittedly beautiful looking film, judging from those who sat nearby who could not help but (often badly) attempt to sing along with every song. For everyone else, though, they’re better off waiting for the DVD release of “KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park.”Rating: C-