Les Miserables Review: Russell Crowe Ruins Everything!

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Les Miserables is an impressive cinematic achievement that remains true to the iconic Broadway production, changing scarcely a storyline or a lyric and likely satisfying fans of the long-running musical.

There's just one minor problem: Russell Crowe absolutely cannot sing.

Russell Crowe as Javert

The Oscar winner portrays Inspector Javert in the film, an integral character who sets his sights on Hugh Jackman's fugitive, Jean Valjean.

But while Jackman has won Tony Awards and shined on stage, Crowe simply can't carry a tune.

He spends his time on screen concentrating so hard on each note and attempting to hide his accent while doing so that he fails to actually act. Javert is a fascinating, intense character, none of which comes off in Crowe's stoic performance.

The policeman is tasked with two solos, the final of which typically concludes - SPOILER ALERT - with a beautifully held long note, as Javert plunges to his death.

But the movie cuts the song short, removing the drama from this suicide and symbolizing the problem with Crowe's casting in general: you never forget that Russell Crowe is trying to sing like Inspector Javert. One of the best actors of his generation stands out, when he should be disappearing into the character.

Will Anne Hathaway win Best Supporting Actress for her role as Fontine? Yes. Will it be deserved? Absolutely.

Jackman is also strong, as is Samantha Barks (Eponine), and you can't go wrong with Sacha Baron Cohen as shady innkeeper Thenardier. But it's impossible to not be affected the most by Crowe and to envision the awards he ought to have coming down the line:

Sorry, Russell. But make room for a shelf full of Razzies.

(NOTE: For another take on the film, read the Les Miserable review from our friends at Movie Fanatic.)

Have you seen Les Miserables? Give it a grade now:

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Fans of the stage performance will have to go into the film expecting some differences. The vocals are not as polished sounding as one would expect in a musical or in a stage performance of an opera. Instead of this detracting from the film (with few exceptions) I felt it actually added to it. This is an opera for film. Since most every line is sung, the vocals are the main means of emotional conveyance. I do agree that Russell Crowe's singing was a little distracting. He could hold notes but his voice lacked some presence. It was kind of like Nicole Kidman's voice in Moulin Rouge, you could tell it had been run through filters and other processing. Jackman and Hathaway deserve best actor/actress, no doubt about it. They were amazing. I was also impressed by Samantha Barks (Eponine). The child star Daniel Huttlestone as Gavroche stole the scene on multiple occasions. I was a little dissapointed to see Helena Bonham Carter in her typical crazy woman role. She is such a versatile and powerful actress but only ever gets cast as the same character but with different names. I also felt Sacha Baron Cohen was put in the movie to make it more enticing to guys. He did fine but I felt like everyone around me was laughing at him, not because he was funny but because it was funny to see SBC as Thenardier.

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Can't agree about Crowe. Thought he was perfectly fine. True he doesn't have the voice of Phillip Quast or Norm Lewis, but he portrayed Javert well. The person whose voice I couldn't stand was Eddie Redmayne. I'm not suggesting he can't sing, just that I didn't find the vocal range right for the part.

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@ Jim

I'm blown away. Are you deaf? Tone deaf, specifically? Russell Crowe is... he didn't hold a candle to any of the other actors in the movie (both acting and singing), especially eddie redmayne

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This film was an embarrassment on several levels. First, the score is incredibly banal. It sounded to me as if it had been generated by a "Broadway Musical Style" algorithm. Forgettable, trivial. The usual tropes: the action stopping so that a character could sing their showstopping reflection on their personal conflict, the midpoint finale during which several contrapuntal threads combine. Enough, already. It's so formulaic, and has been done so many times so much better in the past. The entire cast floundered vocally, especially the painfully miscast Russell Crowe. Oh, my God. Why does Hollywood consistently underrate the intelligence of the moviegoing public by shoehorning big names into roles for which they are so obviously not suited? Do they think we won't buy tickets otherwise? Case in point: Tom Cruise in "Interview With the Vampire". And now Crowe. He cannot sing, period, but was only a short step below the rest of the bunch, all of whom were given music in a tessitura at the top of their ranges, with the predictable result that they were constantly straining. Amanda Seyfried sounded like Snow White in the 1937 Disney production with her tight little vibrato. I thought the only creditable singer was Samantha Barks. Why does Hugh Jackman die? I'm just askin'. One minute he's a man in vigorous middle age, able to carry an unconscious man through the Paris sewers to safety; in the next, he's got brown makeup under his eyes to indicate age and exhaustion and Anne Hathaway is suddenly barging in to show him the stairway to heaven. That death scene in the church was one of the funniest cinematic abortions I've ever seen. Just hilarious in it's complete capitulation to kitsch. I will allow that everyone tried very hard to invest their characters with intensity. The best part of the evening was standing in the ticket line, There was a British tourist couple ahead of us, and the man asked for "Two adult tickets for Lays Miserables," with the accent on the first syllable. It was beautiful.

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I thought Russell Crowe had a better voice than Hugh, but that's just because I love clear tones, The entire cast was spot on except Eponine. When I found out who they cast I figured she must have a beautiful singing voice but no, it's weak and her phrasing was unjustified. It made her character much less appealing, but still it could have been worse. The best part of this movie was that the actor didn't let beautiful singing get in the way of acting, they let it sound rough and not always pretty but it didn't matter because that's where the beauty of all the songs comes from. I hope to see many more movie musicals with the live-singing/performing aspect! AMAZING!:)

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@ Confused and dumbfounded

Other people's reactions amaze me. Eponine (Samatha Barks) was a particular delight of the film in that she could sing as well as act.

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@ Confused and dumbfounded

I can't disagree with you more regarding Samantha Barks. She was fantastic. I have seen her play Eponine before and her voice has always been a standout and truly trained, clear, and beautiful. On the other hand Russell Crowe was horrible to listen to and his acting wasn't all that great either. Javert was a real disappointment for me.

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@ Jamie

One thing I would also like to add is Aaron Tveit was fantastic as Enrolas. I was nervous with who they were going to cast for this role but Aaron did very well and even better than Eddie Redmayne, in my opinion. Having read several of the comments it's obvious we all have varying ideas on what's good and what's not. At the end of the day, I think this movie offers a little something for everyone. I think it is a beautiful portrayal of the human condition (both good and bad) and although I didn't think everyone's singing was spot on, overall I think the movie was well done.

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I love Russell Crowe. I thought he did wonderful. Can't say the same about Hugh Jackman who absolutely butchered my favorite song in the play Bring Him Home. That was just awful!

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I completely disagree with this. I have seen Les Mis many times on stage and have never been happy with the portrayal of Javert. I think Russell Crowe, though a tad awkward, played an intriguing Javert. There was a certain pain behind his eyes that you wanted to know more about and finally felt in his suicide scene. While he might not be the best singer in the world, Crowe's soliloquy before his death brought me to tears. Part of me wanted to run to him and just beg him to stop. He might not be the best technically, but to say he ruined the movie is unfair.

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@ Zoe

I agree that Russell Crowe played an intriguing Javert, but isn't there any other actor who could also have done this - and be able to sing! After all, it is a musical....

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I have been though a lot of late and Russel Crowe touched my heart with his singing because it came from his heart. I felt his spirit and that is what counts. We live in a world where we have to be entertained and not feel the spirit. It is time we stop tearing people down and look at the heart. Les Miserables told a story and I am living my own. Who am I? Just a Mother, Wife, Artist, and a Healer.

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are you kidding? I could have listened to Russell Crowe all day but literally plugged my ears when Hugh Jackman started in! Lordy it was Bad!!! That was one BAD MOVIE!!! BLECH!!!

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On paper, casting Crowe makes absolutely perfect sense. I would actually blame the director for not steering him to prioritize inflection and emotion in his voice over simply singing a song. Hathaway sounded like any other alto-soprano who has sang that song 100x in highschool, but her decision to show the desperation in his voice to the point of whispering some lines made it incredibly moving. It made any pop-like rendition I've heard before feel disconnected and overdone. I was incredibly bored with Jackman's performance until he let loose during "What I have I done". Crowe's voice was OK, it just stuck out because he wasn't adhering to the style everyone else was adapting to.

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I actually liked Russell Crowe just fine in the role of Javert though I may be the only person on earth who does. Javert is my favorite character in Les Mis and I find him the most intriguing. Crowe's somewhat awkward performance works for me in what I see as a very complex and tormented character. It is absolutely true that he is not the most competent singer out there and I'm fine with that. I imagine a man with Javert's personality profile and background would be immensely uncomfortable singing in a musical and that visible struggle with the role actually seemed more natural in a way than a polished, perfectly-pitched stage veteran Javert. I enjoyed the contrast personally. Crowe played the role much differently than I am used to seeing it but that didn't distract me or make me see the performance as bad. The one and a half casting bones I have to pick would be with Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thenardiers. The choice of Cohen in particular left me scratching my head.

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@ TJ

I know what you're saying, and the same thing occured to me. However with something like this, the singing itself is an integral part of telling the story and needs to be good for both the entertainment value and the quality of the production. The effect you're talking about would have been best accomplished by someone good enough at singing to give the impression they aren't great because of the complexities of their character -- not by someone who's truly not very good and whose acting ends up suffering because of it. Just my opinion.