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Beifuss: 'Phantom' has phans, no matter the critique

Category: Phantom of the Opera News
Article Date: January 14, 2005 | Publication: Commercial Appeal | Author: John Beifuss
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Q: I was looking forward to seeing "The Phantom of the Opera" and then your review came out, and my husband didn't want to go see it.

I finally got him there, and WE BOTH LOVED IT!!! The music -- actors -- everything was perfect. I plan to see it again with the girlfriends and will be buying a copy of it when it comes out on video. Why would you influence people to miss this beautiful movie when there are so many awful movies that vie for people's attention?

Carol Mathis, Memphis

Commercial Appeal film critic John Beifuss responds:

It's true I wrote that director Joel Schumacher's film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit stage adaptation of "The Phantom of the Opera" was a kitschy failure. "It just sort of swings there, limply," I said, "like the body of the stagehand who earns the film's only onscreen death, wrongly convinced that its big budget and musical theater origins make it more fragrant than such other rotting corpses of the multiplex as 'Seed of Chucky' and 'The Cookout.' "

But those words were almost kind compared to the sarcasm of Anthony Lane, whose review appeared in The New Yorker a week after mine.

"What does it take to shake a movie fan?" Lane wrote. "Whether we are critics or bug-eyed buffs, so many of our evenings are spent in the company of crimes and misdemeanors that we can hardly be blamed for developing the hide of a pachyderm. Just occasionally, something slips through -- a thin shudder of monstrosity, enough to remind us of what it means to be afraid. And so it came about, this week, that I gazed at a black screen and saw words so calamitous that they might have been written in my own blood: 'Screenplay by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Joel Schumacher.' ''

Ouch!

Yes, "Phantom" caused some reviewers to draw their sharpest knives. The Web site rottentomatoes.com, which tabulates national critical reaction to movies, lists 81 negative and 47 positive "Phantom" reviews.

Yet Carol Mathis wasn't alone among moviegoers. I received several calls and E-mails from readers chiding me for a review that might discourage people from seeing what they believed to be a wonderful film.

Here's my response to all you "Phantom" phans: I'm happy for you! Really.

If you loved a movie I hated, that's great. I want you to go to the movies; and if you enjoy the movies you see, that's even better.

Although it sometimes can be fun to eviscerate a particularly bad movie in print, I wouldn't be writing about movies if I didn't love them. I never want to discourage people from seeing movies they think they might enjoy. Instead, I want to encourage them to see worthwhile movies they might otherwise overlook, such as "House of Flying Daggers" and "Sideways," both currently in theaters.

This isn't to say there's no place for bad reviews in a newspaper. Part of my job is to give readers a context for my views and to entertain as well as (I hope) illuminate. Even bad reviews are intended to be helpful. I'm not wild about "A Very Long Engagement" (reviewed today), but I hope you get enough from the article to decide whether it's something you'd like to see. And if you're a real movie fan, you probably want to see certain movies even if you think you'll be disappointed; after all, would anybody who loves "Rushmore" or "The Royal Tenenbaums" skip "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" just because of its mixed reviews?

So if you love Adam Sandler but I didn't like his new movie, don't let that keep you from the theater. Go see it, and make up your own mind. And let me know what you think, of my reviews and the movies.


E-mail your movie questions to beifuss@commercialappeal.com or mail them to Ask the Critic, The Commercial Appeal, 495 Union Ave., Memphis, TN 38103. Please include full name, phone number and city of residence so we can verify your letter.

 


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