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If you haven’t seen the 2004 movie Phantom of the Opera, you might be surprised at how entertaining it is.  You don’t have to be a crazed, psychotic ‘phan’ in order to enjoy this movie (although it helps).

It is a good flick with which to cuddle up to your honey sharing a bowl of popcorn and a bag of Twizzlers.

What do you mean you can’t get your man to watch this movie?  Tell him stuff blows up.  There’s  sword fighting, kidnapping and a couple of gruesome murders.  (All true!)  If that doesn’t persuade him, promise to let him take you down to his lair later—that always works.

Back to what’s fundamentally wrong with this enjoyable movie.  An oxymoron, I know.  Let me explain.

Andrew Lloyd Webber is not only the musical genius behind the Broadway version of Phantom of the Opera, but he’s also behind the movie.  However, here I must point out that he is playing fast and loose with Gaston Leroux’s character from the novel.

Let’s just state the obvious.  The Phantom (Erik) is supposed to be ugly.  I don’t mean, “Thank-you-for-dinner-but-I-just-want-to-be-friends” ugly.  I mean acutely, hideously ugly.  How ugly?  His own mother cannot look at him.  Uh huh, that’s right.  His own mother.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen some fairly ugly babies in my lifetime.  Their mothers never seem to notice that their little fellow bears a striking resemblance to Rush Limbaugh.  It’s nature’s way of ensuring the continuation of our species and perhaps what keeps us from killing Rush Limbaugh.  Anyway, his mother lacked that maternal instinct, covered his hideousness behind a mask and never showed him any love.  That would screw anyone up, right?  (I’m talking about Erik here, not Limbaugh.)

So, who do they cast to play the butt-ugly Phantom in the movie?  Steve Buscemi?  No.  That would make sense.  He’s a great ‘character’ actor.   However, that isn’t how Hollywood thinks.

The clever casting director picked *drum roll* Gerard Butler!

Huh?  Excuse me?   He’s about as hunky as they come.  Ladies, I must confess…he’s still good-looking, even when they try and make him Phantom-ish.  Now doesn’t that sort of miss the point?

In Leroux’s novel (which this movie and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical are based) The Phantom’s entire face is covered.  Apparently, they had to cut  the mask in half in order for the actor to emote on stage during the Broadway show.  Okay, I get that, but in the movie, the mask shrinks even more, barely covering the top right of his forehead, across his nose and down to the middle of his cheek.  It’s like he’s wearing a “thong” mask.    Full mask = boxers, half-mask = whitey-tighties, movie mask…well, you get the point.  Phantoms should not wear thongs of any sort.

I understand.  The director didn’t want to cover very much of Gerard Butler’s gorgeous face.  Nevertheless, the main freakin’ point of the whole thing is that the character wears a mask to cover his ugly face or else the dynamic doesn’t make sense.  Get it?  The Phantom is ugly!  Not slightly unattractive, but ugly!

Okay, that brings me to my next HUGE point of contention.  The unmasking at the end of the movie.  Christine yanks off The Phantom’s mask in front of a packed audience at the Paris Opera House.  Oh horrors!  It’s the scary part of the movie!  What do we see?  What terror awaits our poor maltreated eyeballs?  Brace yourselves.  It’s…well, it appears to be really bad, blistered sunburn.

I have to admit right here that even as the unmasked Phantom showing the entire sunburn-of-doom on the side of his face, Gerard Butler still maintains his yumminess.  I mean, seriously.  How can you make that man look bad? Especially when he’s wearing super tight, black pants, shiny black riding boots and a pirate-y, puffy shirt unbuttoned down to his navel revealing a solid set of phantom pecks and what looks to be a six pack of phantom abs.  He’s also packin’ a pretty good phantom…….wait, this is a family blog.  (Sorry, mom.)

So, once Christine (Emmy Rossum) rips away the Phantom’s mask, the audience screams as though they’ve never seen a sunburn before.  They shriek and cause havoc as they try to escape the “ugly” thing up on the stage.  These people have obviously never been to a beach in Florida where the milky-white British people bake in the sun for hours.  We go to Florida all the time.  We see these poor people walking around Disney World, their faces looking much like the Phantom’s sunburn-of-ensuing-chaos.  As far as I know, no one has run screeching  from the theme park  into the streets at the sight of one blistered tourist.

Let me explain something before I go any further.  Among Phans there are two divided camps.  Think of it this way…there are the Leroux Purists Phans (Republicans) who want to stay 100% true to the character from the original novel and then there are the Free Agent Phans (Democrats) who will tolerate all kinds of interpretations both on screen and in live theatre.  I’m a little of both which I guess makes me a “moderate phan.”

That means I love the novel’s crazy, twitchy, weepy, yet angry characterization of Erik.  In the book, he is a total nut job, but there’s something about him that makes him a perfect anti-hero (Note:  Not a villain—don’t ever call him a villain in my presence.  It has been known to cause me to foam at the mouth and trust me; it’s not pretty when I have a mouthful of Twizzlers).

As a moderate phan, I don’t mind when people interpret Erik in different ways, but how can you mess with the one thing that makes him a character in the first place?  He’s ugly!

Gerard Butler?  There ain’t enough make-up in the world to ugly him up enough.  Let’s face it.  They’re paying him to drip sexiness all over the screen because that is what sells.

Handsome Gerard puts his hands all over Christine (Emmy Rossom) as he serenades her down in his lair.  This scene is hot.  He’s oozes sexiness.  Watch it, you’ll see.  It makes a woman want to jump down that secret passageway, push that airhead, Christine, out of the way and scream, “Forget her!  Take me!”

Umm…I mean, I’ve never actually pictured this or anything, I’m just sayin’…

So,  if watching the movie is your only insight into this classic character, well, then, take it.  But, remember, Sir Webber is changing who Erik is—the very core of the character.

I admit Erik is creepy in the book and it may not transfer very well to the big screen.  For example, he has cold, clammy hands, yellow eyes and parchment-like skin.  In the novel, Christine says The Phantom smells like death!  Ewww…that part totally grosses me out.  In my mind, Erik had oysters and Limburger Cheese for dinner that night and well, that accounts for any odor of decay.  It’s the only way I can process it in my head. If something doesn’t make sense to me, I have to find a way to make it work in the scenario in my mind until I’m satisfied.  Oysters it is!

So, go ahead and order it off Netflix.  I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  And remember to brush your teeth after eating oysters and cheese lest someone acuse you of  having Odeur de Decomposition.

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