You can hear the people sing-- really hear them-- in the long-gestating screen version of that Broadway juggernaut Les Misérables, for which the musical numbers were recorded live on the set rather than lip-synched to studio recordings. That's one of several ways in which director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) tries but fails to inject real-world grit and verisimilitude into producer Cameron Mackintosh's musical-theater blockbuster, a simpering reduction of Victor Hugo's panoramic 19th-century novel into a succession of noble peasant heroes (Hugh Jackman as the persecuted Jean Valjean), cardboard villains (Russell Crowe as police inspector Javert), and star-crossed lovers belting out sound-alike anthems about the resilience of the human spirit. On stage, where Les Mis has been running continuously in one form or another for the past 25 years, this all had a certain kitsch appeal. On screen, it's a real slog, less a movie than an exercise in careful brand management. As the fired factory-worker-turned-prostitute Fantine, Anne Hathaway stops the show with her borderline-hysterical rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream," all bulging eyes and hyperventilation. But is this great acting, or merely the precursor to spontaneous combustion?
Director: Tom Hooper
Writer: William Nicholson and Herbert Kretzmer
Producer: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward and Cameron Mackintosh
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit and Colm Wilkinson