"Les Miserables": Critics Review The Big-Screen Adaptation

By: CBS News (Posted by Josh Mabry)
By: CBS News (Posted by Josh Mabry)

(CBS NEWS)-- "Les Miserables" gets the big-screen treatment on Christmas Day with a star-studded cast that includes Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter.

Set in 19th century France, the film, based on Victor Hugo's book and the subsequent hit musical, follows ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Jackman) as he's hunted for decades by relentless policeman Javert (Crowe) after he breaks parole. Valjean ends up caring for young Cossette, the daughter of factory worker Fantine (Hathaway), a move that changes their lives forever.

With a 73 percent rating on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, "Les Miserables" has largely favorable reviews, with some critics even expecting a few Oscar nominations.

Film critic Richard Roeper noted, "This is an unforgettable movie going experience, sure to garner multiple Oscar nominations."

But not everyone is impressed with director Tom Hooper's movie adaptation; Critic Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune gave it 1.5 out of 4 stars and simply wrote: "I didn't like it," before explaining why he was disappointed.

Here's what others had to say:

Claudia Puig of USA Today gave "Les Miserables" 3.5 out of 4 stars: "Victor Hugo's grim, but redemptive, classic novel is given resplendent new life on the big screen. 'Les Miserables' is sweeping, as would be expected given the scope of the hugely popular stage musical from which it is adapted. But it's also wonderfully intimate, thanks to Tom Hooper's deft direction."

Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer: "If you love Les Mis the stage musical, my guess is you will love what Hooper and his bustling company have done. But when you hear "Master of the House" and you think of the Seinfeld episode with Elaine's gruff dad belting the tune before you think of those shifty innkeepers the Thenardiers, then you may want to steer clear of this grand endeavor."

Rafer Guzman of Newsday gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars: "This is a big story, with big themes, based on Victor Hugo's really big novel about love, law and revolution in 19th-century France. Yet somehow, "Les Miserables" isn't the major movie event it should be."

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter: "As the enduring success of this property has shown, there are large, emotionally susceptible segments of the population ready to swallow this sort of thing, but that doesn't mean it's good."

David Edelstein of New York magazine: "The tasteless bombardment that is Les Miserables would, under most circumstances, send audiences screaming from the theater, but the film is going to be a monster hit and award winner, and not entirely unjustly."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone: "No one expects gutsy filmmaking in a musical. But that's just what King's Speech Oscar winner Tom Hooper delivers in Les Miserables. Damn the imperfections, it's perfectly marvelous."

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