DVD Review by Kam Williams
Oscar-Winner Anne Hathaway Shines in Stirring Adaptation of Broadway Musical
Published by Victor Hugo in 1862, Les Miserables is generally recognized as one of the most important novels of the 19th Century. The socially-conscious, 1900-page opus explored a plethora of themes, particularly power, justice, monarchy and religion.
The moving morality play specifically shed light on the plight of the poor, especially women and children, with the hope of raising awareness about the insensitivity of a callous legal system. I digress by way of introduction only to remind readers that Les Mis’ source material was a relatively-profound examination of France’s prevailing issues of the day.
Directed by Tom Hooper, the screen version won a trio of Academy Awards in the Best Sound, Makeup and Supporting Actress (Anne Hathaway) categories. Understandably, the novel’s labyrinthine plot has been simplified considerably into a tale of love and redemption.
Unfolding in Paris in 1815, the movie basically revolves around Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a recently-paroled ex-con intent on turning a new leaf after serving 19 years in prison for the theft of a loaf of bread. On the road to redemption, he promises a prostitute on her death bed (Hathaway) to raise her about to be orphaned young daughter (Amanda Seyfried).
Meanwhile, he finds himself mercilessly haunted by a ruthless policeman (Russell Crowe) intent on putting him back behind bars. Officer Javert believes once a crook, always a crook, and accordingly devotes his days to a dogged pursuit of Valjean.
Les Mis is a cinematic rarity in that virtually every line of dialogue is sung. Furthermore, purists might appreciate the fact that the director eschewed dubbing in favor of having the cast sing live on set.
Entertaining enough to garner this critic’s stamp of approval, Les Mis nevertheless pales in comparison to so many of those enchanting classics from my childhood like West Side Story, My Fair Lady and Guys & Dolls. I guess they just don’t make musicals like they used to anymore.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, mature themes and suggestive material
Running time: 158 minutes
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: The West End Connection; Les Mis on Location; Battle at the Barricade; Les Mis Singing Live; The Stars of Les Mis; Creating the Perfect Paris; Victor Hugo’s Les Mis; feature commentary with director Tom Hooper; and more.
To see a trailer for Les Miserables, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZVUk-BRZVAM