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Tom Hooper's problem is soiling good projects with bad direction. Even if his Les Miserables wins as many Oscars as The King's Speech did, it's a habit he really needs to correct.
We're all familiar with the experience of seeing movies that cram ideas and themes down our throats. Les Miserables may represent the first movie to do so while also cramming us down the throats of its actors.
... Jackman, who should get a Nobel Prize for the way he carries pretty much the whole undertaking on his shoulders, so protean and virile is his singing and acting throughout.
New York Times:
By the grand finale, when tout le monde is waving the French tricolor in victory, you may instead be raising the white flag in exhausted defeat.
Victor Hugo's grim, but redemptive, classic novel is given resplendent new life on the big screen.
This isn't a great movie musical, but it's a good one, with a couple of truly transcendent performances.
Jackman is performing in a drama, Crowe on his concert stage, and Hathaway alone in her room. It's a collection of performances rather than a story.
If you like your musicals enormous, over the top and bang-on-the-head manipulative, "Les Miserables" is the movie for you.
After 2 1/2 hours, the movie's become a bowl of trail mix - you're picking out the nuts you don't like and hoping the next bite doesn't contain any craisins.
Jackman is in his element here, mastering the space where acting and singing meet head on.
Les Miserables is ... shellacked with appropriate levels of grimy grandeur. It's designed to make us feel every emotion fortissimo - because pianissimo is so 1862.
As the enduring success of this property has shown, there are large, emotionally susceptible segments of the population ready to swallow this sort of thing, but that doesn't mean it's good.
Los Angeles Times:
Despite its pitfalls, this movie musical is a clutch player that delivers an emotional wallop when it counts. You can walk into the theater as an agnostic, but you may just leave singing with the choir.
An engaging version of a sweeping epic, an enduring tale of romance, sacrifice and heroism.
This is a big story, with big themes, based on Victor Hugo's really big novel about love, law and revolution in 19th-century France. Yet somehow, "Les Miserables" isn't the major movie event it should be.
Fans of the original production, no doubt, will eat the movie up, and good luck to them. I screamed a scream as time went by.
The music and the magnetic performances make many of the directorial missteps fade into the background.
New York Daily News:
Hooper has chosen to embrace the theatricality of his project - in which there is almost no spoken dialogue - with full enthusiasm.
If you love Les Mis the stage musical, my guess is you will love what Hooper and his bustling company have done.
While successfully "opening up" the musical far beyond the limitations of a theater-bound production, Hooper retains its heart and soul.
This is an unforgettable movie going experience, sure to garner multiple Oscar nominations.
No one expects gutsy filmmaking in a musical. But that's just what King's Speech Oscar winner Tom Hooper delivers in Les Miserables. Damn the imperfections, it's perfectly marvelous.
San Francisco Chronicle:
At the heart of the "Les Miserables" movie was a good idea that just didn't work out this time. The idea was that the actors should sing their songs live on camera.
It is enormous and sprawling and not the slightest bit subtle. But at the same time it's hard not to admire the ambition that drives such an approach ...
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
The piercing sincerity of this stupendous, heart-wrenching epic would move even the most jaded cynic. See it and weep.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Fans of the franchise will greet "Les Miserables" as a feast for the senses, but the rest of us are left with crumbs.
Committed fans of the musical are likely to have their affections reaffirmed. The less devout, however, may conclude that in this case more is less, and fidelity not always a virtue.
Globe and Mail:
A productive experiment, an epic-scaled weepie, an exercise in sincere kitsch, and, perhaps too easily dismissed, a rare modern movie about the wretched poor, a traditional subject of interest at this time of year.
Les Miserables sings so desperately for its Oscar supper, it makes you want to scoop it up in your arms like Jean Valjean cradling the wretched Fantine.
Director Tom Hooper piles one terrible decision upon another, with the result being a movie so overbearingly maudlin and distorted that it's one of 2012's most excruciating film experiences.
Tom Hooper gets a bit carried away with swoopy shots, and the close-ups are unrelenting, but crucially he lets the filth and the squalor in.
Overall, you might just be wrecked and need a hug. Be generous with any naysayers and spread your arms wide; they'll be weeping too.
The squalor and upheaval of early 19th-century France are conveyed with a vividness that would have made Victor Hugo proud, heightened by the raw, hungry intensity of the actors' live oncamera vocals.
The moist-eyed storybook romanticism of the source material proves resilient to [Hooper's] efforts.
New York Magazine/Vulture:
The tasteless bombardment that is Les Miserables would, under most circumstances, send audiences screaming from the theater, but the film is going to be a monster hit and award winner, and not entirely unjustly.
It lives in that kinda-sorta, okay-not-great, this-worked-that-didn't in-between for which words like "better" and "worse" fall woefully short.