Sincere story of answered prayers, mostly those of one Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-con who tastes mercy and tries to break free from his criminal past (he stole a loaf of bread). But the reformed man is pursued by Javert (Russell Crowe), a lawman who does not believe reform is possible. Jackman and Crowe are both game, but when almost every line is sung, the voice must do the work, and neither is quite up to the task. Crowe lacks the requisite menace, and Jackman can't quite manage the controlled vocal acrobatics. So it's up to Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter to steal the show as a couple of naughty, bawdy scallywags. (The story is set in France, but the culture it portrays smells English, except there are more nuns about.) They have the show stolen from them by Eddie Redmayne's Marius, a young nobleman with a head full of populist ideals and a heart full of love for Valjean's adopted daughter. (In general, the kids carry the day here.) Director Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) builds a rich world, full of muck and majesty, but can't resist prolonged closeups come solo time. And solo time comes often. With Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried. (2012) — Matthew Lickona
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