I hate to criticize a film by saying “It’s not really my type of movie,” or “I’m not really into this kind of genre” because it’s poor form from any type of “reviewer” or whatever the hell I’m doing on here, to dismiss a film just because it’s outside the norm of your favourite style or genre. I actually quite enjoy musicals (from some stupid reason I have seen every episode of Glee, and I keep watching…), where not only do you get some great songs usually, but these songs can expertly be used to display a bevy of emotions from each character, almost like an aside to the audience. A musical/period film really tests my nerves, especially clocking in at 158 mins., and although this isn’t my particular slice of bread (trying to stick with a Les Mis theme here), I tried to remain as partial as possible.
The one neat and unique device they used was that they legit sang everything, I mean everything. All the dialogue is sung, unlike in normal musicals where they talk for a bit and then break into song, everything is sung and then they segue into “actual” songs. I was unsure how they were going to sustain this without it getting annoying or bland, and it kind of just faded into the film for me and I hardly even noticed it anymore. I don’t know how much I’d like to see of it in the future, but it definitely was inventive for film. I also quite enjoyed how each actor had to sing their parts live on set instead of dubbing themselves over in post-production. This gave it a kind of “raw” feel that symbolized nicely the dirty and scummy post-French revolution world they all lived in. Sure, Russell Crowe may not be the greatest singer, but it fell in line with his character and felt true.
It runs way too long though, a lot of trimming could be made, especially around the Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter characters. Now I get that they were probably a fixture in previous editions, but their supposed purpose of adding comedy, doesn’t really work, and they just become a random distraction that takes away from the main story. While they do tie-in later, it is in no way through any major plot devices or resolutions, just a method to have them re-appear. I don’t think Hugh Jackman or Russell Crowe cultivate any new land with their acting skills here, but both are more than serviceable and up for whatever. Their gravitas and experience lend them well here, where especially for a character like Jean Valjean who doesn’t seem too complex, Jackman silently makes him work, where in lesser hands the balance of quiet and commandeering would fall out of favour. You won’t have to go any further than right here to find a bigger Anne Hathaway hater, and no she wasn’t bad in this, but I don’t really get all the buzz surrounding her performance that seems to be occurring. I will give her major props for her “I Dreamed A Dream” sequence/song that was some great, great stuff and by far my favourite part of the movie. People seem to think she might win the Oscar just off of that scene alone, and I hate to say it, but I could see it.
All in all, I thought it was alright. I know that’s decidedly “un-critical” and lacking depth, but that’s all I got. I was a little beaten up over the runtime as a lot seemed to drag on and serve little purpose. There was to be fair some wondrous moments of beauty such as that Hathaway scene and some nice set design and direction from Tom Hooper. Unfortunately, these moments were all too fleeting and the film suffered because of it. Not enough marshmallows in the Lucky Charms.