LES MISERABLES (director: Tom Hooper; screenwriters: from the novel by Victor Hugo/from the book by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil/Jean-Marc Natel/William Nicholson/Herbert Kretzmer; cinematographer: Danny Cohen; editors: Melanie Ann Oliver/Chris Dickens; music: Claude-Michel Schonberg; cast: Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean), Russell Crowe (Inspector Javert), Amanda Seyfried (Cosette), Isabelle Allen (Cosette as a child), Samantha Barks (Eponine), Sacha Baron Cohen (Swindler), Helena Bonham Carter (Swindler), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Colm Wilkinson (Bishop of Digne), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras); Runtime: 157; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/Debra Hayward/Cameron Mackintosh; Universal Pictures; 2012-UK)

"Adeptly but unimaginatively directed by Tom Hooper."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

Based on Victor Hugo's colossal classic 1862 novel and adeptly but unimaginatively directed by Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech"/The Damned United"/"Longford"), who based it on the long-running Broadway stage version from the 1980s that was supplied by the English libretto from Herbert Kretzmer that's based on the French musical score by Claude-Michel Schonberg, Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. The star vehicle is a splashy costume period film that sounds more like an opera than a movie musical, as it's sung throughout with about 49 numbers that all blend together as one song is indistinguishable from the other. The glossy entertaining musical epic of the oft-filmed Les Miserables (there are something like 60 versions) is about an unjust imprisonment in 1815 France, a manhunt that takes decades, the highlighting of class differences, crimes against humanity and social injustice, and redemption (the heart of Hugo's message, that criminals can change if given a proper chance to do so and treated with some compassion). It feeds on sentimentality and appeals to the masses to bawl for the sympathetic victims, and aims to show actors not known for singing can hold a tune--which turns out to be the case.

Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), Prisoner 24601, serves a 19-year prison sentence of hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family and trying to escape. When he breaks his unjust lifetime parole after his release, he reinvents himself as a wealthy factory owner and later as the socially liberal mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer.

Anne Hathaway plays the ruined and abused Fantine, singing the pic's weepy showstopper tune "I Dreamed a Dream," whose beautiful daughter Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) is raised by the now gentlemanly Jean. Cosette is involved in a doomed romance with the wealthy idealistic revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne), who has spurned the love of the earthly Eponine (Samantha Barks, who shows off a powerful set of pipes).

Seventeen years after Jean's disappearance, Police Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), Jean's former prison guard, discovers his criminal past and hounds him without pity because of his belief that once a criminal, always a criminal. But the lawman must face the past grievances of his corrupt regime in a rioting Paris of June 1832, that calls for a political upheaval of the unjust system. Unfortunately the revolution fails, and the most courageous of the idealistic freedom fighters die.

Though in every way competent, it's too heavy-handed and monotonous to be enjoyed fully for 2 1/2 hours, but deserves its due for being a solid production that should appeal to the Broadway crowd that loves to weep over such well-performed passionate emotional outbursts that require no thinking and are easy to track who are the good guys and bad guys.

REVIEWED ON 12/14/2012       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"