The “Les Mis” Mess Misses

The best thing you can say about Les Miserables, now piling up box office numbers all over the world, is that the great Victor Hugo, who wrote the book on which it is based, won’t have to see it.  There are some good things about being dead. It’s also a book worth reading – you can download it legally for free — unfortunately, I fear that far more people will download this awful film, Les Mediocres, illegally.

Anne Hathaway, Who Can Sing, Loses Her Hair for a Good Cause in “Les Miserables”

And there’s something else that’s encouraging about this tedious, unmusical, overlong, under-dramatic spectacle about the French unwashed that’s being pitched to the global uneducated.  Compared to this experience, which requires industrial strength No Doz, a visit to Domino’s Pizza is likely to be cheaper and offer more flavor. I recommend that corporate cardboard product rather than almost three hours of boredom. There’s probably one in the same mall where Les Mis is showing.

To be fair – or at least to be truthful – I am not the most welcoming critic for screen adaptations of cynically packaged stage-kitsch. For this reason, I avoid all Disney products – but Disney is more than contagious; it’s an uncontrollable plague. In Les Mis, released by Universal Pictures, poverty and prison never looked so much like video games, or like theme-park rides. But there’s some good even in that odd confection. If less than three hours of a movie is so unpleasant, you’re left to imagine the horror of the 19 years that the heroic Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) spends in chains for stealing bread.  Bear in mind that his jailer, Javert, is Russell Crowe, who seems to be singing with a head cold throughout the entire film.  So Zero Dark Thirty isn’t the only film this season to feature scenes of torture. Even Crowe has surrendered to the tweet-fest trashing his performance and conceded that it wasn’t his best effort.

Back to the film itself – the melodrama about a spontaneous uprising in Paris couldn’t be more topical for a time when Obama and company had to lock Congress in session through New Year’s just to get zillionaires to pay part of their fair share of the tax burden.  But this is not Occupy Wall Street – it’s more like Replicate Wal-Mart. And it is being presented by Universal Pictures, owned by the Comcast conglomerate.  Les Mis isn’t even wish fulfillment – it’s pure fantasy. And, if you didn’t see the show (or if you had the good judgment to walk out before the end), the murdered rebels are resurrected, with their muskets, to sing the finale. Occupy Heaven? It could be an ad for the NRA.

Among the few bright spots, and they are few, is a sweet-voiced Anne Hathaway, who cuts her hair off (and a lot worse) to earn pennies for her child, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter ham it up shamelessly as street crooks, and Samantha Barks has a radiance in the grime (and a glorious voice for singing and acting – a discovery, like Hathaway’s) as young Eponine.

Poverty, Movie Stars, and Guns

As I’ve warned you, there’s more depth and flavor in a Domino’s Pizza than there is in Les Miserables, adapted from the Victor Hugo novel that stood the test of time. Remember, Jean Valjean is forced by tyranny and destiny to be there, whereas the film-going public is choosing to spend its hard-earned money, not to mention the cost of food and drink consumed out of sheer inertia. Don’t be surprised —  if there weren’t an audience for bad films like this one (or The Hobbit, another hit), there wouldn’t be a film industry.

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