Review: Les Misérables: Movie musical might be called Les Miss! No stars!

For his adaptation of the kitsch-fest known as Les Miz, Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) bets heavily on his cast, and loses big. His musical strategy is to have the singing done live on set, and to have the camera bore in on the actors, especially during solos. The singing does indeed have immediacy, and the close-ups give the audience intimacy with the characters but the overlong movie proves a monumental bore.

The movie-star cast designed to elicit a large box office, might be more accurately called “Le Miss,” if “Miss” were a French word rather than Mademoiselle. “Les Miz” might have been called “awesome” by the tour bus theater patrons, but those with a long history of theater attendance would probably find it wanting when compared with the greats of an earlier time including “My Fair Lady,” “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma” and the like.

Hooper and Cameron Mackintosh could have hired any of a number of Broadway or West End singers unknown outside the theater community with voices that would evoke the needed magic. But this collection of tone deaf stars only shows up the banality of the material in this clunky film. Russell Crowe (Javert) stunk, Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) tried, Anne Hathaway (Fantine) grinds and there was no chemistry between Marius and Cosette. Sacha Baron Cohen (Thénardier) and Helena Bonham Carter (Madame Thénardier’s) looked like a third rate comedy act left over from the Borscht Belt.

In his big climactic number “Bring Him Home,” Jackman is clearly straining to hit the notes almost as desperately as Crowe does throughout with his rasping voice.

Hathaway takes every opportunity to suck all the oxygen out of “I Dreamed a Dream,” the number that is this show’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Earlier in the film, Fantine sells some of her back teeth to a shady dentist who promises to leave her “enough to bite.” Clearly, he also left her enough to gnash. It’s a ghastly, eyelid-fluttering, self-serving, sympathy-begging performance.

Sometimes I thought the show could have been “Oliver Miz” or “Les Twist” with the kid doing a “cockney” version of a song in Paris. Hooper seems to steal a lot of moments from Sir Carol Reed’s version of “Oliver”! Only this “Les Miss” turgid film experience had no “Oom Pah Pah” going for it.

Lumbering and redundant, Les Miz offers proof yet again — after “Nine,” “Idlewild,” “Burlesque,” “Rock of Ages” and more — that the Hollywood musical has become, like lye soap and cursive handwriting, almost a lost art.


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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