Translating the overrated bombast of the 80s Broadway cult fave Les Miserables, talented Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper stays true to the sappy spirit of the source while making it his own stylistically. That's pretty much the most that can be said for this rote, stale musical.
Hooper, who previously crafted the good entertainments The Damned United and The King"s Speech, once more displays a strength in cinematizing what was originally theatrical. Working in conjunction with cinematographer Danny Cohen, production designer Eve Stewart, art director Grant Armstrong, and set decorator Anna Lynch-Robinson, creates a convincingly squalid 18th century France for his ragamuffins and revolutionaries to prance about in. Costume designer Paco Delgado stitches together painstaking frocks for the game cast, but these aesthetic components are one of the overlong picture's sole strengths. Despite master Victor Hugo's brilliant narrative, the music is mostly unmemorable, and makes for a slog of a movie with few saving graces, which are, for the most part, visual.
Hooper's visualization has Cohen's camera swooning, but mostly to no avail. The film ultimately can't hold a candle to prior filmizations of Hugo's classic, especially Swedish auteur Bille August's underrated 90's version, sans the middling music, mercifully. Hugh Jackman saves the movie with his instinctive, guttural turn as convict cum gentleman Jean Valjean. His is a Valjean for the ages, almost surpassing Liam Neeson's in the aforementioned forgotten 90s flick; its unfortunate that Jackman's career high performance is contained in this artistically unsuccessful picture. Anne Hathaway is also memorable as the doomed Fantine, bringing a mousy fragility which differs from Uma Thurman's in the earlier, far better film.
The strong parts don't equal the sum, which is Hooper's weakest work thus far. Entertaing at best, frustratingly uneven at worst, at least some will love it, those in the know soley as a huge guilty pleasure.