Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

I didn't bring to this movie any love for the stage version because I've never seen it, but apparently I still thought better of it than most critics. It has an unmatched extravagance of design; every shot and every square foot of the set are filled with detail. One critic complained that a lot of art direction doesn't equal good art direction, but I liked what I saw and I was grateful that they piled on so much detail, crafting one gorgeous vision after another, because it gave me something to enjoy during Andrew Lloyd Webber's middling songs. By the end of the film I had grown to like them, but their schizophrenic lack of structure and rhyme scheme, changing melodies at whim, became so distracting that I wound up ignoring most of them. Gerard Butler is adequate as the Phantom (if too young and handsome), while Emmy Russom uses her lifetime of opera performance to great effect as Christine, carrying the production on her capable shoulders at only 16 years of age. Joel Schumacher hasn't always delivered quality films, but he is an undeniable master of the complicated technical aspects of film production, and here he marshals an exquisite set and talented cast into a fine performance of a less-than-fine musical. It's all window dressing, but what amazing window dressing it is.

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