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A teary - but terrific - tour-de-force; Hit West End musical Les Miserables has been turned into a Hollywood film. So does it transfer well to the silver screen? Yes, says Graham Young.

Les Miserables 12A, 158 minutesIT sounds like an obvious thing to say - but Les Miserables looks exactly what it is. A film based on a wildly successful stage musical. A tour-de-force cinematic experience that will see fans making lots of repeat visits.

And a global blockbuster in the making that will surprise nobody, but still leave quite a few people sniffing or wiping away tears.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron could have written the tagline this week when he conjured up the phrase "a Ronseal deal" because, in the words of the TV ad he was quoting, "it does what it says on the tin".

In the cinema, this is a strength and a weakness.

Les Miserables gives you the best seat in the house that you could never afford in the West End.

I saw this at a preview screening in a small 100-seat cinema - and it still leapt off the screen. If it works there, it'll work anywhere.

What it rarely does, though, is offer any kind of cinematic razzle dazzle, save for the bookends and odd scenes here and there.

It doesn't have the brio of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge or the energy of Chicago. But so what? By bravely letting actors sing for real, director Tom Hooper had every right to play it all just a tad safe elsewhere with his version of a French musical which began life at The Barbican in London in October 1985. As that other saying goes: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Based on the novel by the late Victor Hugo (who is having a great time in cinemas after Scorsese's Hugo a year ago), Les Mis is the story of an abnormally strong peasant called Jean Valjean.

After breaking his parole, he's tracked by police inspector Javert amid the turmoil of a revolutionary period in French history.

Agreeing to care for factory worker Fantine's daughter Cosette changes all of their lives...

Australian star Hugh Jackman and Kiwi star Russell Crowe give it their all as the hunted and the hunter respectively.

Close your eyes, though, and their star appeal wanes like their voices at times since they do not have the lip-synching safety net.

Open them again and you'll realise they are A-list actors first and foremost - and that Hooper was right not to choose singers who might be able to act in their place.

Same goes for his choice of Mamma Mia! star Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and the truly outstanding Anne Hathaway as Fantine.

Throw in a debut star like Groove High TV actress Samantha Barks as Eponine and My Week With Marilyn's Eddie Redmayne as Marius and you soon realise what a cushy number those Twilight kids have had all these years.

Les Miserables has some sumptuous cinematography by Danny Cohen, Oscar-nominated for Hooper's best picture-winning last film, The King's Speech (2011).

But I'm not convinced his erratic use of 'Dutch angle' tilted camera shots does anything other than distract you from the ages of the characters over the featured time period.

As per the film Hugo, Sacha Baron Cohen gets a gig as Thenardier (who sometimes looks as if he's been dressed by Elton John), with Helena Bonham Carter as Madame Thenardier.

After Great Expectations just before Christmas, I'm getting totally confused by her appearances. Show me six of her wild-haired visages on a series of stills and I'd have a job guessing which film was which. Surely it's time that Bonham Carter appeared short-haired in a modern Hollywood crime thriller, just for our own sanity.

Save for one gratuitous death for a 12A, Les Miserables has enough genuinely emotive power in its tank to guarantee a lot of people enormous pleasure.

And, since 'dreaming the dream' is what going to the movies is meant to be all about, you can't say fairer than that.

It's a hit!


Amanda Seyfried as Cosette and Eddie Redmayne as Marius

One of the dramatic opening scenes

Russell Crowe as Javert

Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean and Anne Hathaway as Fantine
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 11, 2013
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