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The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera
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Again proving himself game for any genre, Joel Schumacher takes the helm of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, a musical whose long delay to the screen represents a rare failure of Hollywood to strike when the iron is hot. No doubt thinking it could be his Chicago, Schumacher was probably as surprised as anyone to see his grandiose production shut out of the major Oscar categories. The film is an incredibly faithful rendering of the popular show. But with Webber's fingerprints all over it, it's never precisely more than that, and that's what separates it from Chicago. Coming only two years on the heels of that film, there's an unjust tendency to judge Phantom according to Chicago's success, and true enough, it doesn't measure up to either that or the stage phenomenon that inspired it. One real difference from the stage: it's unavoidable that the phantom (Gerard Butler) will lose some of his crucial mystery when brought up close and personal with the audience. Seen at a distance, lurking in the shadows, he's a more remote and effective figure. Emmy Rossum fares better as Christine Daae, projecting a disarming mixture of beauty and innocence, and Patrick Wilson is a dashing Raoul. All three leads -- not to mention a funny Minnie Driver as the opera's resident diva -- come off pretty impressively in terms of their singing, which sounds enough like the original Broadway recordings to please ardent fans of the material. In fact, the exquisite sets, lush costumes, and sweeping camerawork -- even the black-and-white frame story -- all compliment the performances well enough. The result is a costume drama that's at times genuinely rousing. It's just not an Oscar winner. Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide