(Overpowering rendition of Broadway musical)
There's no doubt about it: the movie version of the hit Broadway musical, "Les Miserables," is an overwhelming spectacle, filled with some of the best music ever written and some of Hollywood's biggest stars playing the major roles. As good as it is, it doesn't match seeing the stage version, as the sweeping scenes can't make up for the intimacy of live theatre.
That being said, credit must be given to director Tom Hooper for staying true to the musical, where most of the lines are sung in opera style. Not that Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried have operatic voices, but they do their best with the haunting music. Jackman is the best voice of the group.
You know the Victor Hugo novel. Jean Valjean (Jackman) is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his starving family. Jumping parole, he is forever chased down by Jalbert, a straight-as-an-arrow policeman (Russell Crowe). When saved from returning to prison by a kind priest, Valjean turns his miserable life around, becoming a factory owner and mayor of a small town. When he tries to save a poor working mother (Anne Hathaway), he vows to find and care for her daughter, Cosette, who has ended up in the care of the meanest, most crooked innkeepers you will ever see (Helen Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen), who provide the comic relief for the tragic story. Amanda Seyfried is excellent as Cosette, who falls in love with one of the French student leaders of the Revolution.
There's so much more to the epic story, which most people are familiar with from reading Hugo's novel or seeing the musical. (We've seen it five times.)
There's a lot going on over the course of two hours and 40 minutes. The battle scenes at the barricade are very realistic, as are the many scenes of poverty in Paris in the early 1800s.
While we still prefer to see "Les Mis" on stage with live actors, we must give due credit to the filmmakers for giving everyone a chance to see this epic story and hear the beautiful music.
Rated PG-13, with the violence of war.