Fearing date-movie hell, most guys will panic at the idea of a Gothic love story set in an 1870 Paris opera house where beast hits on beauty with a nonstop assault of Andrew Lloyd Webber music. Snap out of it. Phantom, still running on Broadway after sixteen years, is a rapturous spectacle. And the movie, directed full throttle by Joel Schumacher, goes the show one better. With a cast of young hotties, it smolders. Emmy Rossum, 18, has an aching loveliness to match her singing voice as soprano Christine Daae. And she can act. Gerard Butler, 35, brings a raw, full-throated masculinity to the Phantom, a musical genius who prowls the theater with a mask hiding the disfigured half of his face but nothing cloaking his mad desire to make Christine a and his lover. He'd kill for her and crosses swords excitingly with his pretty-boy rival Raoul (velvet-voiced Patrick Wilson). The actors do their own singing, except for the scene-stealing Minnie Driver, who is hilarious as a diva with an indecipherable Italian accent. Don't expect grace notes — the film is a blunt instrument. But you can feel the heat when the Phantom sweeps Christine down to his underground lair, lit by candelabras. Schumacher works sensual wonders with only Rossum's bare shoulders and Butler's open shirt. "Abandon thought and let the dream descend," sings the Phantom. The dude knows his stuff. In an era of passionless hookups, swooning romantic excess may be just the ticket.
From The Archives Issue 431: September 27, 1984