*WARNING - at the end of this post I'm going to give you my honest opinion of Les Mis the film. It isn't going to be pretty. If you would rather not know what my viewing experience was, move along.
Once upon a time in 199something (I'm horrible with dates.) My mother purchased tickets so that she and I could go to the Ordway Theater in St. Paul to see Les Miserables. I was over the moon excited. In preparation for this event I read the book and listened to the soundtrack so many times that I knew every single word. I was especially fond of Eponine because she sang in my range. When the day arrived I put on my favorite dress, pantyhose, and heels because we were going to the "theater". We even took picture before we left, although I can't find them now.
Upon arrival to the theater (a 2 hour drive) we found our seats and I read every word of the program, putting faces to all the names. When it finally started I thought I would die of excitement. That 3 hour experience was superb, glorious, transcendent. Seriously. I cried through 80 percent just on the pure power of the music alone. During the "One More Day" scene where they stand together on the moving stage, marching and waving that flag I thought my heart would burst out of my chest at the passion and power of it all. During intermission I walked down to the orchestra pit and the conductor looked up and said hello. He asked it this was my first time and I said it was. He said,"Congratulations and welcome to Les Mis". It was a moment I won't forget. During the second half when Jean Valjean sings "Bring Him Home" I cried so hard I shook and so did the woman next to me. I remember her husband told her to quiet down and she smacked him. You could hear sobbing from the back rows. At the end the place went insane. There was standing and cheering and so much crying I can't even explain it. I have never before experienced anything else like it and on that day I fell in love with Les Mis. Big time.
SO, when I heard that a movie was being made I was beside myself. Every time I saw a preview I clapped happy little claps. Nobody wanted this movie to be fantastic more than I did. I wanted to love it exactly ...maybe even more...than I had loved the play. Oh my dears, what a disappointment. It was like they hadn't even seen the play.
Now, I have to admit that there is no way to replicate the theater experience with a film and probably if I hadn't ever seen the play I might have had a completely different take on it, but it was abysmal. Hugh Jackman (of whom I am a fan) was terrible. Really terrible. I know he can sing, but this did nothing to indicate that he had any skill at it at all. He was sort of sing/talking through the entire film. Strangely enough, I though Russel Crowe wasn't bad. His voice lacks power, but the "Stars" scene was pretty good. He had a moment and he should be proud. Ann Hathaway was ok, but she's only in a very short bit. Amanda Seyfreid, who I know has a lovely voice, sounded like a cross between a Disney Princess and a chipmunk. Everything she sang was written in a key so high for her that she couldn't control her vibrato. Marius was quite good and his friend Enjolras was exceptional. Eponine was wonderful, but even she sounded like she was struggling with the key a bit. Who arranged this thing?
Oh I wanted this to be good. I waited for specific moments, One Day More, Bring Him Home, Can You Hear the People Sing and when they arrived I feel betrayed, like I had been promised something amazing and what I got wasn't even close. I didn't even tear up until the very end and still didn't need a tissue, and let me tell you, I brought a pocket full of them.
When AH and I discussed it afterward we agreed that this kind of musical theater isn't meant for the big screen, certainly not a play that is as big a legend as Les Mis. His experience, since he had never seen in on stage, was more positive than mine, though it was only ok.
Here's my suggestion: skip the film. It's long and sad and not inexpensive. Instead, save your pennies until you can see it on the stage. Make it a memory; an honest Les Mis experience. It's still out there making the rounds, though mostly in the eastern part of the country right now. Here is a page where you can see the wheres and whens of the US tour. You don't need to see it on Broadway (though that would ROCK). I saw it in St. Paul Minnesota and I can't imagine it being any better. OR, you can grab a beverage, find a comfy chair and head over to youtube for the 2 hr 49 minute 25th Anniversary Concert. It's not live, but it gives a much better feel for the play itself and what the power of the human voice can do, because you see, the thing about a musical is the singing and if the singing isn't quality you lose the magic.
There is the whole problem with Les Miserables the film; if has no magic.