It won three Academy Awards, three Golden Globes, and four BAFTAs. It also happens to be one of the most beloved contemporary musicals of all time. Now, Tom Hooper's bombastic film adaptation of the Boublil and Schönberg musical Les Misérables is yours to own, released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray in a handsomely designed quadruple combo-pack that also comes with a digital and ultraviolet copy. But the $34.99 list price for this package is a bit steep considering that the bonus features are basically interviews repurposed from their press kit.
Let's face it: Les Misérables is a polarizing film. Hooper and cinematographer Danny Cohen have crafted a piece that is stunning to look at, though for all the praise it has received for its seemingly revolutionary usage of live singing (as opposed to prerecorded), the voices are rarely up to snuff with the demands of the score. Still, what Russell Crowe (Javert) lacks in singing ability, he makes up for in his acting, and even though Jean Valjean's section of the score sits at the very top of Hugh Jackman's vocal range, on the small screen, their performances have a surprisingly greater impact.
If it wasn't clear at the cinema why Anne Hathaway's Fantine won her the Oscar, hearing her tremulous voice and watching the blood, sweat, and tears drip from her war-torn face on a 52-inch television screen answers any question you may have. The film's other MVPs, Samantha Barks (Eponine), Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras), and Daniel Huttlestone (Gavroche), shine just as brightly, while even the most misguided performances are far more tolerable when you're watching at home with the ability to fast-forward.
As far as bonus features, the standards are all there, but without anything more. Feature commentary with director Tom Hooper is quite fascinating (especially if you're a musical-theater geek wondering why the order of "I Dreamed a Dream" and "Lovely Ladies" was switched). Documentary features are enlightening, if a bit too self-satisfyingly laudatory (we get it, they sang live and filmed the building of the barricade). A Blu-ray exclusive interview with the West End stage veterans in the film, like Hadley Fraser and original Eponine Frances Ruffelle is fun, but that feature is only significant to the super-fans among us.
Disappointingly, there are no deleted scenes, no gag reel, no sing-along option that invites you to follow the bouncing head of Little Cosette. "Dog Eats Dog" is still gone, and Hooper's much-rumored extended director's cut is probably still being saved for a future release, if it even exists at all. And where the heck is that candid interview with the FX guy who created the sound of Russell Crowe's spine snapping at the end of "Stars"?
If you're a musical-theater geek, you've probably already added Les Misérables to your DVD shelf, even if you hated it. If you're undecided, get it from Netflix instead, as these extras probably won't do anything for you. If you still can't get past the singing, just mute the television and turn on the 1985 Original London Cast Recording. It makes for a better soundtrack.