The Phantom of the Opera

An enjoyable musical diversion like a Christmas dinner

In this age of problematic wars and uncertain futures, it's nice to know that artists like Andrew Lloyd Webber can divert our attention with improbably romantic stage musicals such as Phantom of the Opera. The excessively overwrought lovers and villains of the screened "Phantom" meet and sometimes exceed the formula that requires swelling music, mundane lyrics, and over-the-top struggles between good and evil. Robertson Davies best expressed it: "There is a childlike, unsophisticated quality about opera which commands respect in this wicked world."

The plot is moved by a mysterious, deformed recluse, known as the Phantom, who terrorizes the opera house with demands about the roles his secret prot?g? Christine (Emily Rossum) must get. While she appears to be falling for her mentor, into her life comes an old friend and emerging love, Raoul (Patrick Wilson, The Alamo); let the struggle between good and evil, art and life, begin. Weber and director Joel Schumacher succeed in illuminating through allegory the sacrifices an artist such as Christine must make to be successful, including giving herself to her profession, represented by the Phantom, and giving up her normal life, represented by Raoul. Memorable songs such as "Music of the Night" reinforce the narcotic nature of art and the sacrifices it and love require.

Emily Rossum's Christine is both naturally beautiful and impressively operatic. Gerard Butler's Phantom is unexceptional with middling voice and presence. (Why such a choice with the number of film and stage singers who could have done much better?) Minnie Driver (Ella Enchanted) as resident diva, Carlotta, helps with comic relief, a character to eat the scenery and not be criticized by the likes of me for excess because the character is excess personified.

Except for the questionable choice of actor for Phantom, this film is an enjoyable musical diversion like a Christmas dinner with abundant comfort food gently leading to a most pleasant nap. Guilty pleasures are always in season.