Sunday, January 13, 2013

'Les Mis' Will Make You Say 'Les Uncle!'

From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR

It is not every day I recommend you spend your hard-earned money to see a movie three hours long in which nearly every word is sung by the cast, including the men, even when they are “talking” to other men.

Man 1, singing: “Your face looks famillliar.”

Man 2, singing: “You must be wrong, sir.”

Man 1 again: “Kiss my fooooot.”

Man 2 again: “I’ll whip your butt-ocks.”

Man 1: “In your dreams, sirrrr!”

Man 2: “Word to your moth-errrr!”

And on like that.

It takes some getting used to.

But once you do – and it won’t take long as the opening scene, despite the men singing to and at one another, is a jaw-dropper – “Les Miserables” is a spectacle, an undertaking of color and sound and emotion and history born of – and no other word fits here -- genius.

The Victor Hugo novel of the mid-1800s which became a history-rewriting classic musical more than 100 years later is now a movie, complete with a guy from X-Men, a woman from Batman and a gladiator. Hollywood pulled out all the stops for this baby.

Les Sweet!

I am no theater critic, but I did see “Cats” this year, on stage and everything. And “Annie Get Your Gun.” Finally saw “Shrek” on late-night TV. I am eating this culture stuff up with a spoon.

So I must report that, sure, “Les Mis” is not without flaws. There is no doubt of that. John Wayne isn’t in it, for instance. Neither is Clint Eastwood or Morgan Freeman. Still, it has horses, gunplay, a big boat (right at the first, too!), old timey clothes, an innkeeper with an attitude and, for you guys still paying attention, a girl with unblemished caramel skin singing in the rain.

Les Bingo!

Please know going in that this is not a terribly happy movie. It’s no “Dirty Harry.” This is more like Ol’ Yeller dying every other scene. The title alone should be a hint. A few years ago when I saw “There Will Be Blood,” I suspected someone would be injured. Same deal with “The Departed.” It’s musicals like “The Lion King” -- where an innocent wildebeest dying catches you by surprise -- that you have to be careful about. In “Les Mis,” Vic Hugo spells it out for you on the title page.

What you’ve got is Prisoner 24601/Jean Valjean, plus the guy who for years chases him, plus the adopted daughter of Valjean and her fore and aft hijinks, as well as urchins, the Master of the House, and a well-intentioned post-revolutionary French uprising that gains about as much traction as Notre Dame’s offense did against Alabama in Monday night’s BCS Championship Beatdown.

A quick word about the French Army. Its confetti moments, let’s be honest, have been few and far between. And in a musical, they have it twice as bad. For one, all the altos are immediately handed a saber and a biscuit and sent to the front. The tenors are relegated to ammo lifting, since they’re straining anyway. Everyone else of any rank is handed a funny hat. That’s a half-hour’s worth of les miserables right there.

But there is love too. Redeeming love. Love is the reason my wife kept asking for napkins, even though she wasn’t eating popcorn. If the music alone doesn’t get you, this tale should, this ever-human story of redemption, of injustice, of childhood lost, of misery verses hope and of “nothingness to God.”

Go see it. Take a chance. Strap in. Les pretty good.