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Now a vastly larger audience has the chance to experience the masterwork of a prodigiously talented man who died far too young.
Most of the musical numbers aren't stylized (a natty tango number is an exception) but based in a Hollywood-gritty reality that at times feels silly.
Rent is still Rent, and devotees should adore it while haters will hate it (there are, apparently, plenty of both).
Detroit Free Press:
Too often seems like a late-season American Idol episode that's all Abdul encouragement without any Simon snarkiness.
New York Post:
Rent showcases the hipster trend of getting nostalgic about grime and crime: it's slumtimental.
Although Larson supposedly based Rent on people he knew, the whole enterprise feels as shallow, impersonal and opportunistic as one of those Hollywood action blockbusters designed to be easily translated into other languages and cultural idiom.
San Francisco Chronicle:
If nothing else, the movie reveals Jonathan Larson's musical to be an illuminating time capsule of a wild period immediately before and after the scourge of AIDS.
Ebert & Roeper:
The film captures the beautiful spirit and the raw energy of Larson's play, and it respects the wonderful, gorgeous, life-affirming music.
If Rent works -- and most of the time, it does so flawlessly -- it is because it remains Rent.
Yes, Rent is about penniless artists who can't afford to eat or pay their electric bills. But must their straits extend to the threadbare filmmaking, too?
Los Angeles Times:
Rent is commodified faux bohemia on a platter, eliciting the same kind of numbing soul-sadness as children's beauty pageants, tiny dogs in expensive boots, Mahatma Gandhi in Apple ads.
Paul Clinton (CNN.com),
I've never seen the stage musical Rent, but the movie had me at hello.
Christian Science Monitor:
As directed by Columbus, Jonathan Larson's East Village reworking of 'La Boheme' in the age of AIDS retains its calisthenic pathos, as well as most of its original cast, but you'd have to be a real Rent-Head to envisage Academy Awards in its future.
Rent falls betwixt and between the odd intimacy of theater and the glorious bigness of film -- and vice versa.
Time has been kind to the impoverished but sexy middle-class dropouts of Rent, who no longer come off as Broadway-mall versions of the last urban renegades in America.
Dallas Morning News:
There's still something staid and doggedly stagebound about this Rent, a reluctance to set out for someplace unique and engage the audience on purely cinematic terms.
San Jose Mercury News:
The scourge of rock-opera, a musical mutation that manages to combine the least savory elements of both with the advantages of neither.
No amount of confident theatrical pedigree will carry a movie musical in the wrong directorial hands.
Those who have an enduring affection for Rent should enjoy the film, at least on a nostalgia level.
New York Daily News:
Rent takes to the streets of New York and convulses in song and dance for nearly two solid hours.
They're saying Rent was of its moment. They're saying that moment has passed. So the point of making the movie is . . . ?
RENT is mediocre and recommended only to those who can claim a familiarity with the play.
Those who haven't seen Rent on the stage will sense they're missing something, and they are.
It's real -- and, on screen, it's really cringe-worthy. Not quite Phantom of the Opera cringe-worthy, but not as much fun to blow raspberries at, either.
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Whatever qualities powered Rent to its numerous theater awards and long run onstage are missing from this charmless floperetta.
Globe and Mail:
The music and direction feel generic but the cast deserves credit for squeezing every possible drop of emotion out of the material.
Director Chris Columbus has done what any smart filmmaker would do with a musical and let the songs dictate his movie.
Stage original Taye Diggs, playing an erstwhile friend turned evictor, actually made a stronger screen impression in Malibu's Most Wanted.
Chris Columbus has pasted the grungy La Boheme update onto film with slavish respect for the original material but a shortage of stylistic imagination and raw emotions.
Onstage, Rent is a series of power surges, but in the movie the songs leave you flat.