Dumb fan, meet Phantom: Our guy pours on the syrup to sing along

Category: Phantom of the Opera Reviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: December 22, 2004 | Publication: The Vancouver Province (British Columbia) | Author: Glen Schaefer
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The Phantom of the Opera

Warning: PG: Violence

Grade: C+

For showtimes, see Page B10.

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The lights go dim in a crowded theatre, save for one spot shining on the face of a badly groomed man in the middle, wearing a hoodie and clutching a notebook. He's the Dumb Fan of the Opera. He begins to sing mournfully.

"These seats are so stiff, my butt just went numb.

And why does everyone else here look like my Mom?"

He's shushed from all sides as the curtains slide open and the movie begins. We're quickly behind the scenes at the Paris opera house, circa 1870. The roving, flying camera drinks in the hectic activity and rich detail recreated on soundstages for the movie. We see the rude stagehands, the garishly painted chorus members, among them the lovely, angel-voiced Christine (soulful 18-year-old discovery Emmy Rossum). She's drafted for the lead role in the opera's latest show after the resident diva (Minnie Driver, a hilarious show-stealer) throws a hissy-fit.

Back in the audience, the dumb fan begins softly to sing again:

"That sweet ingenue catches longing and sorrow,

Can't get enough of the voice on that chick.

Not like in the wretched Day After Tomorrow,

Her lousy-ass deep-freeze disaster flick."

More shushing ensues and the dumb fan settles back, thinking that The Phantom of the Opera reminds him a bit of Moulin Rouge, only without that movie's mad energy and raw, subversive edge. With those Andrew Lloyd Webber tunes, it's as though the soundtrack was chosen by an office of dentists. Webber gets producer credit on the movie, so he gets to keep every syrupy note and all those big devices that looked so good on the live theatre stage.

Rising Scottish star Gerard Butler is a welcome addition as the phantom, bringing a brawny machismo to the role as he stalks his candle-lit batcave. Shame about the plumbing, but he had one heck of an interior decorator. Director Joel Schumacher does know his way around a well-appointed set, the dumb fan thinks to himself:

"It's just what I expected from Andrew Lloyd Webber,

And the guy who directed Batman Forever.

Check out the phantom -- that costume's a beaut.

Got the mask and the cape -- hey, a nipple-free suit!"

The stage show's familiar story of the beauty torn between the disfigured yet hunky phantom and the prissy young nobleman remains, with emotions declaimed loudly in clear tones amid florid orchestrations.

Webber and Schumacher's version mixes elements of Dracula, The Elephant Man and the aforementioned Batman. Pretty, if unoriginal.

The movie ends with a blackish-red rose on a tombstone, as the dumb fan and the many moms shuffle out of the theatre. Working the stiffness out of his butt, he throws his arms out, accidentally knocking the remains of a large Sprite from one lady's grip, as he strides up the aisle for a final aria:

"All in all, not that bad once you get past the solos, but perhaps I'm just being a non-musical weenie.

Thing is, whenever I hear "sopranos,"

I right away think "James Gandolfini."