PCR past banners
Now in our fifth calendar year!
PCR # 248  (Vol. 5, No. 52)  This edition is for the week of December 20--26, 2004.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"The Phantom of the Opera"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith
Four stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

theater seats

Will and Karen's Cabbage Key and Key West Kraziness, Part One
 by William Moriaty
"The Phantom of the Opera"
 by Mike Smith
"The Aviator"  by Drew Reiber
Life After The Fall...."Love Shack" Burns....Holidays Under Attack...."Mandatory Guidelines" for the Week
 by Andy Lalino
The Couch Potato, 2004 Year-End Issue
 by Vinnie Blesi
Concert Review: GUIDED BY VOICES
 by Terence Nuzum
'Tis The Season
 by Matt Drinnenberg
Uma - Ulla....Rock and Roll Notes....Number One - 8 Months Early....Holiday Thoughts....Meet The Beatles, Part 48
 by Mike Smith
Archives of Nolan's Pop Culture Review
Archives 2004
Archives 2003
Archives 2002
Archives 2001
Archives 2000
Email PCR

Warner Brothers     
Starring: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Simon Callow and Minnie Driver
Directed by: Joel Schumacher
Rated: PG 13
Running Time: 2 hours 23 mins

On January 26, 1988, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, "The Phantom of the Opera," opened on Broadway. With an unheard of multi-million dollar advance ticket sale, it became the hottest show on Broadway. Thanks to a friend in Baltimore who put together a bus trip to New York City months before, I saw the show less then three weeks after it opened. I've seen it twice more on Broadway, most recently this past September. Yes indeed, after almost 17 years the show is still going strong and is the second longest running musical in Broadway history. And now, after more then a decade of starts and stops, the musical has finally become a movie. And a great movie at that!

The story is pretty well known. Young musical prodigy is taught secretly by a "mysterious" benefactor. She achieves stardom and then breaks his heart by loving another. To take a line from another musical, it's "a story as old as time." But working closely together, Lloyd Webber and director Schumacher have opened up and expanded the story, adding small, quiet moments to the show's signature spectacle. What could have been a disaster (I blame Schumacher for single handedly killing the once popular "Batman" franchise when he concentrated more on the Bat-butt and not the Bat-story) is instead a fantastic addition to the Phantom legend, with an incredible star making performance by Emmy Rossum.

Rossum is Christine, the daughter of a late musical genius. She has lived at the Paris Opera House most of her life while studying ballet. Recently, she has begun receiving voice lessons from someone she refers to as her "Angel of Music." In spite of her talents, she is still in the chorus of the various shows. The very popular Carlotta (Driver) is the diva of record and she is very protective of her territory. After a quarrel with the new managers of the opera house, Carlotta is replaced by Christine who is greeted with raves after her performance. She has not only impressed the critics but the young man she once knew as a child. It is the classic love at first sight and it will be a love that is tested often!

To many fans of the stage musical, Michael Crawford IS the Phantom. His performance earned him the Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical and a legion of fans around the world. Though originally considered for the role when the film was first announced, the passing years brought along a list of possible actors. Everyone from John Travolta to Antonio Banderas were considered for the role. However, when the decision was made the role went to Gerard Butler. His face partly hidden by a mask, Butler must do the most of his acting with his face. Whether it's a hint of pride upon hearing Christine sing, or the tears brought about by love lost, Butler makes you feel his emotions. Musically, he is a capable singer. The only fault I have with him is when he must sing in a rage. Where Crawford smoothly carried the role, Butler has a tendency to "growl" the lyrics. The classically trained Rossum is fantastic. After roles in "Mystic River" and "The Day After Tomorrow," she explodes on the scene. I was shocked to find that she was only 17 when the film was made. Wilson, as the man who falls in love with Christine, is also well cast and also carries himself well musically. Though she has an album out, Driver does not sing the role of Carlotta. If there is one major difference from the stage show it is that Carlotta is played here for more comic relief. Her spurred Diva comes off like Diana Ross at a Supreme's reunion. All attitude.

The production design is beautiful. Everything from the opera house to a local cemetery to the fantastic chandelier that is central to the story help take you back to the late 19th Century. The score and songs are still as memorable as they were 17 years ago. I know I heard more then one person hum along throughout the film. If you've seen the show, the film will not disappoint. If you haven't, the film will draw you under the Phantom's spell.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give "The Phantom of the Opera"  Four stars

This week's movie review of "The Phantom of the Opera" is ©2004 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2004, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2004 by Nolan B. Canova.