The Film 'Les Miserable' Does The Musical Proud

Les Miserables is one of the most popular theatrical musicals, with 60 million tickets sold in 42 countries. Producers of the movie version are hoping to attract a lot of those fans, too. They shouldn't have a problem, says film critic Kenneth Turan.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, a review of one of the movies we were just talking about. "Les Miserables" has been one of the of the most popular theatrical musicals, with 60 million tickets sold in 42 countries. Producers of the movie version are hoping to attract many of those fans.

And film critic Kenneth Turan says they should not be too worried about that.

KENNETH TURAN. MOVIE CRITIC, LOS ANGELES TIMES: The people who put "Les Miserables" on screen dreamed a mighty dream. They dreamed of filming the musical in a way that had not been done before, in a way that would enhance the emotion of what was already a hugely emotional piece. And they've succeeded.

Director Tom Hooper, in his first film since "The King's Speech," hired the most convincing actors he could find, actors who invest in these characters heart and soul.

That starts at the top, with Hugh Jackman, as Jean Valjean, a convict in 1815 France, about to be released by Javert, the cold-hearted representative of the law, played by Russell Crowe.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LES MISERABLES")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ON PAROLE/THE BISHOP")

RUSSELL CROWE: (as Javert) (Singing) Now bring me prisoner 24601, your time is up and your parole's begun. You know what that means.

HUGH JACKMAN: (as Valjean) (Singing) Yes, it means I'm free.

TIMES: Traditionally, the singing you hear in a musical gets recorded in the studio weeks before the film was shot. Director Hooper decided to change that. He insisted that all "Les Miz'" singing be recorded live on the set. That allows the actors to bring the rich emotion of their entire performances to celebrated songs like Anne Hathaway's show-stopping "I Dreamed A Dream."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LES MISERABLES")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I DREAMED A DREAM")

ANNE HATHAWAY: (as Fantine) (Singing) I had a dream my life would be so different from all this hell I'm living - so different now from what it seemed. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.

TIMES: The romantic part of "Les Miz's" plot kicks in several years later, when the beautiful Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried, catches the eye of passionate young Marius, played by Eddie Redmayne.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LES MISERABLES")

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN MY LIFE")

AMANDA SEYFRIED: (as Cosette) (Singing) A heart full of love. No fear, no regret.

EDDIE REDMAYNE: (as Marius) (Singing) My name is Marius Pontmercy.

SEYFRIED: (Singing) And mine's Cosette.

TIMES: Will love conquer all? Do you even have to ask? Because it is so shameless and so popular, "Les Miserables" is tailor-made for mockery. But this movie musical delivers when it counts. You can walk into the theatre as an agnostic, but you just might leave singing with the choir.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: That's film critic Kenneth Turan. You can hear him here on MORNING EDITION. He also reviews movies for the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: This is NPR News.

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