Wolverine sings, Russell Crowe does his best Cap’n Crunch impersonation and a WHOLE lotta’ French people throw furniture at stuff in arguably 2012’s best musical
I’m not exactly what you would call a big fan of musicals, but even a proletariat soul such as myself rather enjoyed this newfangled “Les Miserables” movie. And before you even THINK about picking up two tickets for this one, be advised: this movie is depressing, the kind of depressing normally reserved for Mandy Moore romances. Funny, I know; who’d thought that a movies called “Les Miserables” would be so unrepentantly miserable?
The film begins with Wolverine hanging out by the waterfront, as he and approximately half of Paris try to pull a massive ship back to port. Overseeing the action is the primary villain of the film, a particularly chunky Russell Crowe, who, as an added bonus, wears a Cap’n Crunch hat for almost a totality of the movie. At one point, Wolverine picks up a three ton mast, just because it has the French flag on it, and Russell Crowe takes note of his apparent superhuman strength. This is kinda’ relevant, a little bit later.
So, we come to find out that Wolverine was a prisoner for a couple of years, because he stole a piece of bread for his nephew, and after 20 years of hard laboring, he’s officially on parole (albeit, for the rest of his natural born life.) Fast forward about ten years, and a clean shaven Wolverine is now the mayor of some shantytown filled with prostitutes and textile factories, with Russell Crowe serving as the town’s chief of police. Now, I know it seems a little far-fetched to assume that Crowe would have NO idea that the dude the runs the city is the very same dude that was his slave for about two decades - even after Wolverine flips over a carriage with one pinkie - but this is a musical after all. In a movie where an entire metropolis stops everything they’re doing and breaks out into pitch-perfect song and dance, I guess you have to suspend your disbelief halfway to Mercury.
After that, we’re introduced to Anne Hathaway’s character, who ends up selling herself on the street to pay for her daughter’s room and board. And when I say “selling herself,” I mean quite literally “selling herself,” as she lets some decrepit skank shave her bald and some gummy street urchin yank her teeth out with pliers for the modern day equivalent of three nickels. Of course, she ends up turning to prostitution to make a living, and as most French hookers prior to the Napoleonic Wars did, she winds up dead in a gutter, but not before telling Wolverine that he needs to take care of her now orphaned daughter. And since Wolverine is such a nice chap, that’s precisely what he does.
The thing is, Anne Hathaway’s daughter lives in an inn with Borat and Helena Bonham Carter, who at this point, looks like Gollum in a Richard Simmons wig. The couple are a bunch of con-artists (at one point, they even get Santa Claus liquored up so they can rob him), and they treat Anne’s daughter like total crap. So, Wolverine waltzes in there one day, and says I will take care of the girl, and he strolls on out, while Russell Crowe can’t help but shake this funny feeling that he’s seen this Wolverine fella’ before.
And we fast forward another ten years, and by god, we are on the brink of LA REVOLUTION in France Town. Anne Hathaway’s daughter has grown up to be that blonde chick from Red Riding Hood, and these two wannabe revolutionary dudes compete for her affection. Meanwhile, the actual daughter of Borat and Helena Gollum Carter is all jealous, because all the dudes want to bone her best friend instead of her. So, the King of France kicks the bucket, and everybody decides then and there is the best time to kick off round two of the French Revolution, and before you know it, people are tossing pianos and dining tables into the cobbled streets of Paris, just waiting for some shit to get real. And since this is Europe we’re talking about here, it’s only a matter of time until six year old kids get shot in the face with muskets and milk maids are sent out into the streets, singing songs about the futility of war, while mopping up small oceans of plasma on the city roads. And after that? That’s when things get really bleak looking.
Wolverine and Russell Crowe have their climactic throw down, which pretty much ends and begins with Hugh Jackman dragging the half-dead body of his adopted daughter’s boyfriend through a lake of doo-doo underneath Paris. After a philosophical epiphany of sorts, Russell Crowe realizes that he’s wasted his life trying to bring a spiritually innocent man to justice, so he decides to take his own life by taking a 100 foot leap into a cement pool, culminating in one of the most sickening thuds I’ve ever heard in a motion picture. I know a lot of high profile movies came out this year, but if the Academy overlooks this one for best sound editing, it would be a downright crying shame.
And because we need one last tragedy to close the show, we watch an elderly Hugh Jackman (remember, back in the mid 1800s, being 45 constituted “senior citizenship”) slowly and dramatically punch his ticket to the Great Beyond, as a crop topped Anne Hathaway courts him to heaven - which, apparently, is a Parisian wonderland with home furniture barricades stacked 300 feet in the sky. You know how during a comedy, there’s that one part where everyone in the theater laughs in unison, or when you watch a scary movie, and everybody jumps at the same time? Well, the conclusion to this one resulted in a similar scenario - trust me, you don’t know the meaning of the term “poignant” until you’ve heard an entire room full of middle-aged women blow their noses in a full blown chorus of sniffles.
Not that you really need me to tell you this, but this movie was pretty freaking great. I like the fact that this is a hardcore musical, where pretty much every line of dialogue is sung instead of uttered. And holy shit, I had NO idea that Hugh Jackman could belt out show tunes like a champ - if the next “X-Men” movie doesn’t have at least one heartfelt ballad on it, then 20th Century Fox has no idea what the hell they’re doing with their franchises.
The only real problem I had with the movie, and seeing as how this is a musical, it’s kind of a biggie, was that the music was, well, kinda’ forgettable. Whatever you do, don’t come in here thinking you’re going to have a “Hakuna Matata” or a “Me Party” stuck in your head for a couple of days afterward, because as fantastic as the singing is, the songs themselves are rather…meh. It’s really a double-edged sword here; one of the major appeals of the movie is watching Catwoman and Maximus go all “American Idol” on us, and while it is certainly impressive, there’s nothing on the sheet music that really sticks with you. I imagine people having the same conversation once the movie is over. “Man, that Amanda Seyfried chick can really carry a tune, huh?,” says party one. “But yeah,” party two will no doubt say, “I can’t think of a single damn lyric from ANY of the songs, can you?”
Alas, it’s a minor quabble, and nothing that should prevent you from seeing this movie. Somehow, it kinda’ got lost in the Christmas shuffle, and if it’s playing in your neck of the woods, it’s definitely worth checking out. Plus, if you take your girlfriend to go see it, she’ll think you’re all cultured and sensitive and stuff, which ought to be just enough to let you slide by with watching an estimated 47 hours of playoff football between now and Groundhog Day.
In short? “Les Miserables” is a terrific movie, and you should probably see it. Hell, it might even be the best musical since “Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead,” which, in case you couldn’t tell, is really, REALLY saying something.