CampBlood Gay Horror Reviews: Senseless Rants from a Picky Sissy


Phantom of the Opera Joel Schumacher 2004

Bring Me the Head of Andrew Lloyd Webber


I initially wasn’t intending on writing a review of the swollen gasbag that is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, but like a possessing demon or the gnawing guilt from a grievous sin, the need has clawed its way into my fingers. In the hours that have passed since witnessing this catastrophe, I have thanked my deity (cat) almost hourly for allowing me to come through the ordeal relatively unscathed.

For I feel that I have survived the cinematic equivalent of the Hindenberg, people. Easily the worst film of the last 10 years, Phantom is the inevitable asschild of a monumentally cheesy stage musical, 20 years of self-congratulation, and a mountain of primo cocaine – add two dozen dancers, hand the reins to Joel Schumacher, and enjoy. I have never had the displeasure of having to review a worse film, and I cannot conceive how the foreign press are explaining the Golden Globe Nomination that this turkey has received. Oh wait – that’s right, they’re the foreign press. Zey essplain NOSSINK!!

Wow. Almost lost it there. Seriously, the unfiltered rage that this film draws out of a generally mild-mannered body is absolutely incredible – the military should start screening this film en route to carpetbaggings (or whatever the hell it is they do these days). The film exhibits a lack of grace that is simply staggering to behold – it is as lithe as an industrial park; as limber as a mastodon with rickets. A belching, bellowing mutant rhinoceros, the film crashes through the boundaries of taste like so many toothpick fences, flattening performers and audiences alike with its indiscriminate bulldozer bulk.

Here’s the main problem with this little gem: if you’ve seen the play on stage, you’ve seen the movie – only hopefully with talented performers. If you’ve heard the soundtrack, you’ve seen the movie. In fact, if you’ve seen Madonna’s performance of “Vogue” at the MTV Video Music Awards over a decade ago, you’ve seen this movie. The movie strays about an inch from the stage version and adds absolutely nothing to the way the story is told, which is incredibly strange considering that, well... we’re not in a fucking theatre. God forbid maestro Schumacher take advantage of any of the opportunities that the film medium has to offer by… oh, I don’t know – having the characters move around, perhaps? Showing a flashback or two? Making it look as if the entire story were taking place in anything less than an airplane hanger festooned with 5 million dollars worth of tulle? The fact that Schumacher literally has his actors stand in one place and sing at one another for entire scenes is a glaring clue that maybe he wasn’t the man for the job.

This is even more painfully clear given the recent success of Chicago, which proved that musicals can be visually inventive, fun, and punchy – even if the plays that they are based on have no sets whatsoever. Bogged down by reams of velveteen and a metric ton of self-importance, Phantom is so respectful of the source material that it’s scary – you might say that its right hand is so busy giving itself a strokejob that it doesn’t notice that its left hand has already topped itself off.
And let’s face it, folks – the stage version of Phantom is good for a laugh and an “ooh” when the chandelier falls down at the end of the first act, but beyond that it’s really a complete piece of shit. Hey – I’ve seen it twice myself, but I was a teenager at the time and would certainly have been at a bar instead, had I been of age. Are we really supposed to swoon when a turn-of-the-century costume drama suddenly explodes into a drum-machine-fueled cheese-pop fury as Christine passes through the mirror? Sure the folks in the UK got off on it, but they’re also the same people who elevated Cliff Richard to stardom (and, indeed, Richard recorded a radio version of the theme song from Phantom with soprano/lunatic Sarah Brightman) and are therefore not to be trusted.

Seriously – the play has a few admittedly catchy songs and a nifty catastrophe and an underground river, all of which are present here (although the catastrophe is misplaced and the underground river looks like a leftover set from The Goonies), and that’s about it. Any actor hired to play the Phantom is apparently not allowed to have any singing talent (yes, Dracula 2000 delivers just about the worst vocal performance ever committed to film – but only because Michael Crawford didn’t beat him to it; the feting of Crawford’s Phantom is one of the greatest cases of the Emperor’s New Clothes since Jimmy Carter started writing poetry). The love story takes tepidity to new shallows, giving us a boring sissyboy hero (Patrick Wilson, who – following up on his turn in Angels in America – is apparently contractually obligated to appear in any film featuring sconces that look like men’s arms holding torches) and a dull, attractive heroine who is apparently enormously talented (the young Emmy Rossum is serviceable but certainly no knockout -- I much preffered her in Mystic River, mostly because she was dead for half of the movie) but utterly stupid and weak, making no decisions for herself and demonstrating the resolve of a potted fern. Throw in a bunch of annoying supporting characters, slap in the face with a giant powderpuff, and raise the curtain.

No one gets out alive in this one, people. Minnie Driver (wasn’t she, like, nominated for shit once?) is shrill and impossibly hatable as the diva Carlotta, whose performance – probably intended to amuse – is one of the most grating and horribly off-key I have ever seen. Completely baffling as well is the presence of Miranda Richardson, who is apparently cursed for eternity to appear in any film whose production design threatens to overwhelm her performance, only so she can fight it tooth and nail for supremacy (see also: Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, Merlin, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). There are other people sprinkled in here and there whom you might have heard of, but it’s really more of a disservice to them to mention them than to leave them out.

But perhaps the most important thing to remember here -- other than to avoid this movie like a plague of flesh-eating locusts -- is that it was funded almost entirely by His Evil Dwarfship Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber himself. So when it goes down in history as being one of the biggest bombs ever made, at least it will rest squarely on his conscience and pocketbook, and no one else's. And that is something to sing about, indeed.

Rating (out of 5): NOT A FUCKING ONE