Like its eponymous hero, this adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical The Phantom Of The Opera is shockingly in-your-face. Despite the combined talents of Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler, its tragic love story between an opera-singing novice and her disfigured mentor is horrifically bloated with theatrical gestures and falsetto dialogue - a formula that may work on stage, but on the big screen, it's frankly obnoxious.
Chorus girl Christine (Emmy Rossum) sings in the shadow of diva La Carlotta (Minnie Driver) at the Opera Populaire, until fate - or some darker force - intervenes. She suddenly finds herself centre stage, unaware that her success is owed to The Phantom (Gerard Butler), a musical genius who lives in catacombs beneath the opera house. Hopelessly in love with Christine, The Phantom makes himself known to her but wears a mask for fear she'll be repulsed by his deformity. That fear quickly develops into murderous rage when an aristocratic pretty boy (Patrick Wilson) threatens to steal her away.
"GARISH AND NAUSEATING"
Even behind a mask, Butler exudes a seductive intensity while Rossum is the perfect embodiment of wide-eyed innocence. Sadly these qualities are undermined as they're forced to sing through their dialogue and adopt grand postures. Relentless vibrato, quivering lips and heaving bosoms amount to a ludicrous melodrama that quickly becomes insufferable. Ironically it's Driver's tantrums-and-tiaras portrayal of La Carlotta that rises above the overbearing histrionics to offer much-needed light relief.
Despite hit songs like The Music Of The Night, the key musical set-pieces merge into a flat monotone, not because the actors can't sing, but because Schumacher demonstrates a total lack of imagination. He relies on lavish sets rather than inventive choreography and - after drowning out any hint of sincere emotion in more intimate scenes - the overall effect is garish and nauseating. The Phantom Of The Opera will haunt you, but for all the wrong reasons.