Release date: Dec. 22
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Oscar alumni: producer/scribe Andrew Lloyd Webber (original song, “Evita”), Jenny Shircore (make-up, “Elizabeth”)
One Academy member, talking about “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera,” enthuses, “I can’t wait to see it. I hear it is sumptuous, sumptuous, sumptuous.”
He could add a fourth sumptuous and he still wouldn’t be exaggerating. One of the chief talking points of the pic will be its astonishing look: Alexandra Byrne’s costumes, Anthony Pratt’s production design (art direction, John Fenner; set decoration, Celia Bobak), John Mathieson’s cinematography and the makeup (by a diverse team).
But the film, due to open right before Christmas, is more than eye candy. Oscar voters in other categories (picture, director, script, score) may be swept away by the film’s romanticism: Lloyd Webber and helmer Joel Schumacher have retained the elements that have kept Gaston Leroux’s novel and its numerous adaptations popular for a century, while adding their own flourishes.
Topliners Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson are younger and sexier than in most previous versions. Plus, they can act and do their own singing. What’s not to like?
For decades, the words “movie musical” conjured up images of “Song of Norway” and “Xanadu.” But after “Moulin Rouge” and “Chicago,” it’s clear that tuners have reconnected with trophy-taking.
The filmmakers’ biggest obstacle in their awards pursuit: competing with memories of the stage production, which many people recall as fluttering-heart perfection. In truth, the legit show had its share of creaky scenes and the film can’t escape those. (As with “The Lord of the Rings,” the filmmakers may have been afraid of alienating rabid fans).
But Schumacher & Co. have added some goosebump-inducing moments that couldn’t have been done onstage — for example, a crashing chandelier.
“Phantom” is both old-fashioned (no MTV jump cuts in the musical numbers) and state-of-the-art (rock-’em-sock-’em visual f/x) and it will likely split critics. But plenty of folks have a soft spot in their hearts for the heartbroken villain and his obsession, so it’s likely to do well with auds. But the big question is how much awards voters will embrace “the power of the music of the night.”