Watching musical movies

Our reviewer sings along to five melodic films

Musicals hold a special place in the theatre, perhaps because there is one for every mood. This week we review five films that are all about singing.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is a 2008 rock-opera horror musical starring Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino and Anthony Stewart Head.

In 2065, mass organ failure world-wide led the fictional company GeneCo to sell organs, saving the world.

The catch? The organs are paid for on a payment plan, and if you miss the payment, the Repo Man takes them back.

Vega plays the sick daughter of a Repo Man, although she believes him to be a doctor, and is lured by the head of GeneCo with the promise of curing her disease.

He is dying and plans on making her his successor, as none of his children are fitted for the role.

This film is enjoyable, but the blood and organ removals were very unrealistic – blood was sprayed everywhere,  and it was the consistency of paint.

The effects worked because they were theatric. In the world of Repo! , you need to be theatrical. The songs, while morbid, are catchy and there’s no needless singing for the sake of singing.

The narrator is given an active role throughout, which is novel, and the characters have distinct personalities. Plus, the sight of Paris Hilton’s face falling off is classic.

Score: Nine out of 10 Zydrate shots

The Producers is a 2005 comedy-musical starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick and Uma Thurman.

Lane plays a washed-out Broadway producer and Broderick plays the accountant sent to do his taxes.

Together, they hatch a plan to produce a Broadway flop, take the money raised for the show and flee to Rio.

To produce the perfect flop, they woo elderly women, take the Siegfried Oath with a Nazi and let a failing director do what he wants with the script.

Of course, things don’t go the way they plan and the show turns out to be a hit.

Lane and Broderick work well together with their contrasting meek and brash personalities.

While you wouldn’t expect these actors to sing, they all performed well.

I was disappointed to see that my favourite song, “The King of Broadway,” was a deleted scene on DVD.  I thought it would have set up the rest of the story well. Still, there are plenty of laughs to go around.

 Score: Eight out of 10 Contracts
There is nothing better than watching a musical with popcorn. (Photo: Nikki Jamieson)
There is nothing better than watching a musical with popcorn. (Photo: Nikki Jamieson)

Mamma Mia! is a 2008 romantic comedy musical starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried.

On a Greek island, Seyfried plays a young woman about to get married.

She was raised by her mother, Streep, but finds a diary that reveals she has three possible dads. She sends them all wedding invitations, believing that when she sees them, she will be able to find her real father.

Once they arrive, the film is split between her attempts to identify her father and her mother’s efforts to get them to leave, all to the infectious music of pop band ABBA.

Repurposing pop songs to convey feelings is a nice change from traditional musicals.

You can’t help but enjoy everyone running around singing “Dancing Queen” or the title song, and everyone can carry a tune.

There are times the singing can be a bit too much, as if the characters are singing for the sake of singing.Still, this is still a good movie to curl up with.

Score: Seven out of 10 Potential Dads

Love Never Dies is a 2012 romantic musical starring Ben Lewis, Anna O’Byrne and Simon Gleeson.

This is a filmed performance of the Melbourne stage production, the sequel to the Phantom of the Opera.

It takes place at Coney Island, 10 years after the Phantom’s escape from Paris, where he is the mastermind behind the attraction Phantasma.

He laments that he will never hear his beloved Christine again and is looked after by Madame Giry and Meg.

Christine arrives in New York to sing at the opening of a new opera house, along with her husband Raoul, who has gambled his money away, and her son Gustave.

They stay at Coney Island, where the Phantom convinces Christine to sing for him one last time.

As expected, the singing is wonderful. It takes a bit to get used to the fact that you have to watch from the audience angle instead of the traditional film experience, but it does not take away from the film’s enjoyment.

Every so often, I was distracted by the microphones on the characters’ faces. While there’s a wonderful build up to the show’s climax, the title song falls flat.

Score: Seven out of 10 Masks      

Les Misérables is a 2012 historical drama musical starring Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman.

Jackman plays a convict who breaks parole to start over.

Years later,  he is a mayor and factory owner, and Crowe, his former prison guard, is the new police chief.

Jackman eludes him and raises the daughter of one of his former factory workers, Hathaway.

He is inadvertently responsible for her becoming a prostitute after she gets fired, and her subsequent death.

Things come to a head when the pair returns during the Paris Uprising of 1832.

The film is a bit of a disappointment.

While the songs like “On My Own” are great, the movie as a whole does not work.

If characters are going to sing throughout a movie – there are five minutes of dialogue, tops – then hire singers, not actors.

It’s painful to listen to two-and-a-half hours of people delivering off-key notes.

The theatre version may be wonderful, but there are intermissions for a reason. The movie ran too long.

Score: Six out of 10 Red Flags