The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

      In "Pretty Woman," Richard Gere notes that people's reaction to opera the first time they see it varies greatly. They either love it or they hate it. I now know which side of the fence I sit on that debate. Although I generally love music and I recognize the talent involved, opera bores me. I want the story to continue, and I want some dialogue. I really don't need you to sing me a ten minute song that tells me that you're angry.

      I've never been into the parts of opera that I have seen on TV and in other movies. And, believe it or not, I have never seen any adaptation of this famous opera; on screen or off. So I have nothing to compare this film with. But it seems to me that the origial score was not played on a Casio keyboard, as was much of the music in this version. Maybe having seen it on the big screen with the super loud DTS sound system would have helped, but maybe not. Also, I thought the phantom was supposed to be a hideously scarred character that should instill fear. In this version he is a handsome man whose mask is only there as a sexy "babe magnet" (copyright Roger Ebert).

      It's questionable whether fans of the musical will be enamored with this adaptation. The energy that characterizes a live performance is absent, resulting in a production that often feels sluggish and slow-moving. Those who have not seen the stage version are unlikely to be won over by this Schumacher/Lloyd Webber collaboration. It's the kind of motion picture that typifies why movie musicals are rarely made - were it not for the huge built-in audience, it's hard to imagine many patrons paying to see this. Rent "Moulin Rouge" or "Chicago" instead for much more story and fun in a musical.

      Ultimately, however, appreciation of The Phantom of the Opera will hinge upon your opinion of Lloyd Webber's skills as a composer. The film, like the stage show, contains one great baroque theme and a lot of unmemorable drivel. If you are partial to Lloyd Webber's style, you will at least find The Phantom of the Opera palatable. If not, then this will definitely be an endurance contest. This isn't really a film that needs reviewing. Going in, most viewers will know what to expect, and Schumacher's unchallenging style delivers without frills. For some, this will be a new way to enjoy a favorite musical. But for those like me, it's a mostly tedious way to kill 140 minutes.