Having won a shed-load of awards and critical praise for The King’s Speech, director Tom Hooper decides to follow up by adapting the world’s most famous stage musical. The man, it seems, likes a challenge. Taking a serious approach, Hooper opts to tell the familiar story – which sees French prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) trying to reform while helping a struggling factory worker (Anne Hathaway) and evading a dogged inspector (Russell Crowe) – without any big song-and-dance numbers. But before any of you musical haters get carried away, however, be warned that everything in Les Misérables is communicated by singing. Even sentences which are only a few words long.
Subsequently, while Les Mis fans will enjoy seeing their favourite numbers being belted out in bombastic fashion, there’s not enough to convince those who don’t like musicals. Hooper’s decision to have the actors singing live on set (as opposed to having them mime over pre-recorded vocals) gives the performances a raw authenticity, but the substantial running time (which clocks in at roughly two hours, forty minutes) is punishing. Despite having to sing every word, Jackman visibly tries his hardest to act and Anne Hathaway is impressive too, but there’s just something about Russell Crowe singing this way that’s hard to take seriously. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide welcome comic relief (the former, in particular, gets all the best lines), but non-fans will want it to be over long before the end.