Well that depends, you know...
I've read plenty of reviews on Les Miserables, and it seems the reviewer's impressions of the film depends on whether they have already seen the theatre version. The same goes to those reading the reviews - a fan of the stage show won't be quite so well informed by a reviewer who is totally new to it, and vice versa. So here is where I come from: I grew up with the stage show. I'm a massive fan. I've seen it performed and I know most of the songs off by heart. My review is probably only of use to similarly inclined people, if that...
There is a lot to say and I've already wasted 100 words. I'll reduce it to pros and cons:
- Really excellent, Oscar bait (and totally Oscar worthy) performances from the cast in general. Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway worked their asses off. Outside a couple of misfires (see cons), the actors hit all the right notes.
- The mood and setting are captured really well. Apart from a couple of fake looking sets and CGI, it looks great.
- Whilst obviously you won't get the same standard of singing as the stage show, the combination of good acting and singing did get to me. I was moist around the eyes on at least two occasions.
- The exceptions: I didn't think SB Cohen or HB Carter did justice to their roles. They have the crucial duty of bringing humour to a story called "the miserable", and I don't think they milked their performances anywhere near enough. The biggest problem though is poor old Russel Crowe. He's utterly miscast. He plays Javert, an implacable, imposing tombstone of a man, but Crowe looks a bit of a wuss in terms of voice and looks. As my favourite character, I was disappointed to see him let down.
- There seemed to be some issue with the directing of characters. They tend to wander a lot during the songs, not knowing what they should be doing.
- The film feels its weight towards the end. This was a problem with the musical too, with the story refocusing on two of the wettest characters, Cossette and Marius, and leaving the cool conflicts to the wayside. Love at first sight pales in comparison to a goddamn rebellion.
Over all, I don't think you could get a much better film interpretation of the musical. As a fan, I was pleased with the result and I'll be going back again. Take that for what it's worth, fan/none fan.