The story of Jean Valjean is the story of all who steal food products then sing about it.
Whether it’s the novel by Victor Hugo, the musical by Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg and Herbert Kretzmer, or the current Universal film directed by Tom Hooper from William Nicholson’s screenplay, the audience is under constant manipulation to like a man who filches bakery products.
Hugh Jackman is the scofflaw Frenchman Valjean, paroled from Toulon prison for his larcenous escapades.
Naturally, he breaks parole and is pursued by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe).
Javert is so inept that the French police can afford to give him twenty years to nab a parole jumper whose original crime was pilfering cooked dough.
Forever a captive to his obsessions, Valjean returns to bakery after bakery all across Paris, swiping a croissant here, a bear claw there, giving a new meaning to “sticky fingered.”
Crowe’s Javert is a study in dogged investigative bumbling.
Inspector Clouseau would’ve had a better shot at grabbing Valjean. But thanks to a government job Javert wastes nothing but his time and the public’s money. This film is a subtle but searing indictment against all laws forbidding the firing of the hapless.
In between scenes of pursuit, we are introduced to prostitutes and orphans and eventually a revolution modeled after the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris. However, following a certain amount of defiant flag waving, the revolution fizzles before it can mount show trials, kill its own leaders, or brutally collectivize agriculture.
There are some songs as well, but I doubt they’ll catch on.
At one point, I misread director Tom Hooper’s name and thought it was Tobe Hooper from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
I was about to rip Les Miserables for replacing Leatherface with Javert, but caught my error and deleted some of the harshest text I’ve ever typed.
A rousing huzzah to Miles Roughley for his portrayal of Gavroche’s Urchin. There were four credited urchins belonging to Gavroche and Roughley out-urchined them all by a country mile.
Five Stars out of 19. I wanted something grand for the last review of 2012. I settled for changing the rating system. As Javert might say, getting what you want isn’t always easy.