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Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and others sing At The End Of The Day in this scene from Les Miserables. - Provided courtesy of Universal Pictures / Working Title Films / Cameron Mackintosh Ltd.

'Les Miserables' reviews - see what 10 film critics said (Poll)

01/20/2013 by Corinne Heller

"Les Miserables" was released on Christmas Day and hit No. 1 at the North American box office and has earned mostly positive reviews from top movie critics.

The anticipated musical film adaptation is one of the most popular Broadway shows in the world. Hugh Jackman plays an ex-convict on the run, Jean Valjean, while Russell Crowe plays the police inspector Javert, who obsessed with putting him back in jail. Anne Hathaway stars as an impoverished, ill single mother, Fantine, who asks Valjean to raise her daughter, Cosette.

The three have previous theatre and singing experience. The cast members sang their songs on the set and not in a recording studio, which is unconventional for a movie musical.

As of Wednesday morning, "Les Miserables" has a 63 percent approval rating from 32 top critics on Rottentomatoes.com. Check out exerpts from 10 reviews of Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables" from top critics:

1. Rolling Stone -- review by Peter Travers -- 3.5 out of 4 stars:

"Les Miserables," Travers states, is "a feast for the eyes and ears," and that despite "imperfections," it's "it's perfectly marvelous. He says that "the singing isn't slick" in "Les Miserables," adding: "It sometimes sounds raw and roughed up, which is all to the good. It sure as hell brings out the best in the actors."

Travers raves about Hathaway, saying her "volcanic performance has Oscar written all over it" and that she and Jackman are "Academy all the way." He calls Samantha Barks, who is making her movie debut and reprises her London theatre role as Eponine, the friend-zoned pal of student activist Marius, "wondrous." (Read the full review)

2. Reelviews -- review by James Berardinelli -- 3.5 out of 4 stars:

He says Jackman and Hathaway are likely to be nominated for Oscars for their performances, saying that the actress' singing is "better than expected" and that "this is the most accomplished acting she has ever done. This is an instance in which an actor has raised her game to meet the demands of the role."

Crowe, Berardenielli says, is "surprisingly understated" and calls his singing "workmanlike but not likely to be overpraised." The two "weak spots" in "Les Miserables" are Sacha Baron Cohen and Helenda Bonham Carter. They play Monsieur and Madame Thenardier, a pair of scam artists who initially take care of Cosette when she is a child, and also provide comic relief in the story.

"Their voices are not up to the high standards set by the rest of the cast," Berardenielli writes. "And, although both are excellent at oozing odiousness, their overly broad interpretations of the characters seem a little out-of-place." (Read the full review)

3. NPR -- review by Ian Buckwalter:

He writes that Hathaway "stands out as an actor not generally associated with musicals," while Amanda Seyfried, who plays the older version of Cosette, is "slightly too-warbly" and describes Eddie Redmayne, who plays Marius, her love interest, as "thin-voiced."

Crowe, Buckwalter says, is the "biggest surprise" of the movie and calls the scene in which Javert sings the solo song "Stars" "one of his best performances in recent memory." (Read the full review)

4. The Boston Globe -- review by Wesley Morris:

Morris was not impressed by Crowe's singing skills.

"After 2½ hours, the movie's become a bowl of trail mix -- you're picking out the nuts you don't like and hoping the next bite doesn't contain any craisins. All the carefully crafted miserables turns into a pile of miz. Through it all the person who breaks your heart in scene after scene is Crowe. Not because he's good. It's quite the opposite problem," he says.

"Again, this is a sung-through musical, which means he might speak two words the entire film," Morris adds. "He doesn't sing here so much as carry tunes -- across the desert, in his bare feet. This strong virile actor is giving the songs everything he has yet still sounds like one of the orphans in 'Oliver.' The entire performance is like a car that won't turn over. His bravery's commendable. But there's nothing miz about him, just miserable." (Read the full review)

5. USA Today - review by Claudia Puig -- 3.5 out of 4 stars:

"There's a heightened accessibility to the iconic story in the way that Hooper zeroes in on the emotional performances of Anne Hathaway, superb as the tragic Fantine, and Hugh Jackman, masterful as Jean Valjean, imprisoned for almost 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread," she says. "It's far and away Jackman's finest screen role."

She calls Redmayne "a revelation" and Barks "heartbreakingly soulful." Crowe, Puig says, "strains somewhat with the singing, but his portrayal is appropriately forbidding." (Read the full review)

6. Variety -- review by Justin Chang:

He also calls Redmayne a "revelation" and says that the actor "brings a youthful spark to the potentially milquetoast role of Marius, and who reveals an exceptionally smooth, full-bodied singing voice, particularly in his mournful solo 'Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.'" The song is about his fellow student activists who have died battling French troops at the barricades.

"Hathaway's turn is brief but galvanic," Chang adds. "Her rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream,' captured in a single take, represents the picture's high point, an extraordinary distillation of anguish, defiance and barely flickering hope in which the lyrics seem to choke forth like barely suppressed howls of grief. ... This sequence fully reveals the advantages of Hooper's decision to have the thesps sing directly oncamera, with minimal dubbing and tweaking in post." (Read the full review)

7. The Hollywood Reporter -- review by Todd McCarthy:

"Reuniting with his King's Speech cinematographer Danny Cohen and production designer Eve Stewart, Hooper has handsome interior sets at his disposal," he says. "However, with the exception of some French city square and street locations, the predominant exteriors have an obvious CGI look."

McCarthy also states that "Les Miserables" "fails to adequately establish two critical emotional links: that between Valjean and Cosette, and the latter's mutual infatuation with Marius, which has no foundation at all." (Read the full review)

8. The Washington Post -- review by Ann Hornaday:

"There's little sense of dynamism or pacing, a fault both of the original score and Hooper's unimaginative staging and camera work, which tend to underline, italicize and boldface every emotional beat," she says. "It's all Very Big, All the Time -- which may serve the show's die-hard fans well, but may not persuade those who have been immune to its hysterically pitched charms until now." (Read the full review)

9. The New York Times -- review by Manohla Dargis:

"As he showed in 'The King's Speech' and in the television series 'John Adams,' Mr. Hooper can be very good with actors. But his inability to leave any lily ungilded -- to direct a scene without tilting or hurtling or throwing the camera around -- is bludgeoning and deadly," she says. "By the grand finale, when tout le monde is waving the French tricolor in victory, you may instead be raising the white flag in exhausted defeat."

Dargis adds that Hathaway "holds you rapt with raw, trembling emotion," when singing "I Dreamed a Dream," adding that "she devours the song, the scene, the movie, and turns her astonishing, cavernous mouth into a vision of the void." (Read the full review)

10. The Los Angeles Times -- review by Kenneth Turan:

He says Redmayne is "terrific" as Marius" and sings a "splendid" "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables."

"Because it is so shameless and so popular, 'Les Miserables' and its 'to love another person is to see the face of God' theme are tailor-made for mockery," Turan writes. "But despite its pitfalls, this movie musical is a clutch player that delivers an emotional wallop when it counts. You can walk into the theater as an agnostic, but you may just leave singing with the choir." (Read the full review)

Watch a trailer for "Les Miserables" and tell us what YOU thought about the movie.

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