5 More Miserable Movie Musicals

Usually I post 5 good movies or movie moments related in theme to my previous review. However, the theme of my previous review was terrible movie musicals, and frankly I’m still a little miffed about the abuse of music in modern movie musicals. You all already have your favorite 5 movie musicals, so instead here are 5 movie musicals you should avoid.

1. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (2007): Understandably, the bizarre operetta about a throat-slitting barber Sweeney and his cannibalistic cohort Mrs. Lovett is difficult to adapt. But one thing the original show could never be accused of was a lack of energy. That is, until the literally and figuratively colorless adaptation by Tim Burton. The best example is the butchering of the song “A Little Priest” in the film.
Here’s how it sounded:

And here’s how it should have sounded.

(Yes this is the concert version and not the original, but who can deny how good Patti LuPone is?)

2. The Phantom Of The Opera (2004): Often it seems as though movie musicals inadvertently highlight the underlying flaws of the original. Andrew Lloyd Webber has an annoying habit of writing three songs and stretching them into a three-and-a-half-hour-long show (looking at you, “Cats”), but never was that more clear than in this oddly claustrophobic adaptation. The original musical was a blockbuster because it was the first musical of that gigantic scale. A huge chandelier, and underwater lake, and the stage of the Paris Opera House are all large setpieces, but in the movie they were squeezed into unending narrow hallways.
Here’s how it looked:

And here’s how it should have looked:

Also is it just me or does this music sound really dated? Can we move on from Sir Webber now?

3. Nine (2009): Rob Marshall was responsible for the rebirth of movie musicals with the fantastic “Chicago” in 2002, but his decision to adapt “Nine” next was a gigantic misstep. In this case, the flaw is not in the execution, but in the musical itself. “Nine” was the strange musical adaptation of “8 ½,” the classic Fellini film which has inspired much of modern cinema. So, to be clear, this is a movie of a musical of a movie. In some cases, this has turned out alright (as in “Hairspray”), but “8 ½” is a cinematic giant, and “Nine” is a so-so musical in comparison.
Here’s what “8 1/2” looked like:

And here’s the musical they based on it:

I know. Italian Neo-realism is strange. But that’s why you don’t turn it into a movie musical.

4. Rent (2005): This was a mostly forgettable adaptation of a zeitgeist musical made 10 years after the zeitgeist had faded and the show had become stale. I’ll give them credit that they preserved most of the original cast (now successful singers in their 30s) and cleaned up the rawness of the original musical, so it sounds good. Unfortunately, what made the show so good was the rawness of the original musical and its cast of energetic unknown 20-somethings. Swing and a miss, Hollywood.
Here’s how it originally sounded:

And here’s how it got cleaned up:

Again, musically it’s sound. (Bah-dum-TSH!)

5. The Producers (2005): I’m not entirely sure what went wrong with this one. True, like “Nine” “The Producers” is a movie based on a musical based on a movie, but the musical itself was very funny. This is in large part because Mel Brooks wrote and directed both. For the movie, he passed the direction to his choreographer Susan Stroman, and something is just… off.
Here’s how it originally sounded:

And here’s the version that doesn’t quite work as well.

I can’t figure it out!

Now, this list may make you believe that I am against all modern movie musicals, so in order to prove that false and wipe the taste of bad musicals out of your mouth, here are some really good musical numbers from the past few years:

And if you have some time to spare, I highly suggest you check out this Emmy Award-winning webseries musical by the man who brought us “The Avengers,” Joss Whedon:


About Anne Marie Kelly

Classic Film history & restoration nerd. Writer of A Year With Kate and Women's Pictures for The Film Experience. Follow me on Twitter @WeRecycleMovies.
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2 Responses to 5 More Miserable Movie Musicals

  1. D Kelly says:

    I admit I have never been a Tim Burton fan, but I honestly believe that Sweeney would have been better in animation. Depp and Bonham Carter are no better than stick figures with good makeup and at least we would have better accepted their lack of emotion. And then they could have dubbed the singing!

  2. Pingback: What A Year It Was! 2013 In Review | We Recycle Movies

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