The Phantom of the Opera: Special Edition Joel Schumacher

Though the idea of a film involving both Andrew Lloyd Webber and Joel Schumacher initially struck terror into my heart, I have to admit this is the best possible presentation of the former and the least ridiculous effort by the latter. In fact, it's got surprising appeal well beyond the ceramic harlequin demographic, thanks to superlative tech support and a solid central performance by newcomer Emmy Rossum. Though Phantom Gerard Butler and romantic lead Patrick Wilson don't quite have the authoritative presence to sell their parts, Rossum's Christine Daae is everything you'd want in a fresh-faced open book ready to be written on by various tormenting parties. Backing her up are John Mathieson's gorgeous amber-hued cinematography, Anthony Pratt's voluptuous production design and Alexandra Byrne's vivid costumes, which create an environment that is at once achingly beautiful and tinged with a sense of regret. Better still, things have been filled out both narratively and structurally this time, with (somewhat) more time for character development and a less breakneck pace than the painfully abbreviated stage version. This Phantom has more conviction than any other version I've seen; the whole thing comes together so well that I found myself humming all of the terrible tunes that tormented me in high school drama club. The two-disc special edition includes a strikingly detailed hour-long documentary on the origins of Webber's stage blockbuster, a "making of" featurette that deals with actual production issues rather than phoney inter-celebrity bonhomie (with Miranda Richardson coming off as supremely professional), a deleted scene with Wilson singing depressively to some dry ice, an Easter egg with the cast and crew singing atonally to one of the signature tunes, and the trailer. (Warner)