PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

December 21, 2012

Beloved Broadway musical shines on big screen

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— I begin my review of the new Christmas movie, “Les Misérables” with the disclaimer that I am a huge fan of Broadway musicals. You should know that I come predisposed to love this cinematic adaptation of the beloved musical. That being said, I do think that there is enough cinematic grandeur in “Les Misérables” to win over even those of you who aren’t as fond of Broadway as I am.

This is, simply put, one of the best films of the year.

Based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, “Les Misérables” is the sprawling story of a former prisoner, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who is inspired by an act of Christian charity to break his parole and become a better man, even though this forces him to go on the run from the dogged pursuit of police Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe). Valjean is quite successful in his new life, and makes a promise to a dying prostitute (Anne Hathaway) that he will take care of her young daughter as if she were his own child. That’s no small task because the girl grows up and falls in love with a young student who is part of the doomed revolution that’s taking place at the time in Paris. All the while, Inspector Javert continues his merciless search for Valjean.

Of all of the films that I’ve seen this year, none seem quite as epic in scope as “Les Misérables.” Director Tom Hooper does a great job of showing us the vistas and the squalor of Paris with an army of muddy extras. That huge cast gives many of the musical numbers more thrilling bombast than any performance of the musical I’ve ever seen on stage. So it’s a bit ironic that it’s the quieter moments that resonate most. Anne Hathaway will probably win an Oscar for her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” which is done in a single close up shot that is simply overflowing with emotion. Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks also impressed me with quiet solos that had me at the point of tears.

Hugh Jackman does a superb job in the leading role (he was one of my nominees for best actor) and Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter are very funny as a larcenous innkeeper and his wife. They give the film some much needed humorous moments. The only problem that I have with the cast is Russell Crowe’s performance as the story’s villain. Crowe is solid in the acting department, but sadly, his singing voice just doesn’t measure up. It’s a rather big disappointment in an otherwise brilliant film.

I’ve now seen “Les Misérables” five times, and despite a two and a half hour running time, I’ve yet to find myself bored with the film. The cast is great, the music is moving and the production design is frequently breathtaking. Expect multiple Academy Award nominations for “Les Misérables,” easily one of the best films of the year.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.