Is the age of Movie Musicals over?

Movie musicals have had a decline in quality in recent years.

Is the age of Movie Musicals over?

Alex Moehring, Contributor

Movie musicals have been in constant production since as early as the 1920s. However, the new movies in production seem to be of a lower quality than their predecessors. I have found that a major flaw in most modern movie musicals is a tendency to focus on the soundtrack rather than the story.

Take 2017’s “The Greatest Showman” for example. The movie was moderately well received by critics on commonsensemedia and RottenTomatoes for having an original soundtrack and skilled cast members. However, the main limiting factor for the movie was its story. “The Greatest Showman” was a musical retelling of P.T. Barnum’s life. It may have been a good idea on paper but the movie paints Barnum as a family man who creates a show instead of how he mistreated and abused everyone in his life. Additionally, the movie jumps from plot point to plot point, focusing on having a catchy soundtrack over a coherent narrative.

The movie version of “Les Misérables” had slightly different problems. While the movie managed to balance soundtrack and story, this time the cast was the problem. In casting for the movie version of “Les Misérables,” it seems they went for big names over casting the right people in the roles. This resulted in miscast roles and poor performances (fxguide.com).

By far the biggest disaster of a movie musical is Tom Hooper’s “Cats.” It transformed a beautiful story about rebirth and redemption into a mess of poorly-drawn CGI characters and a convoluted attempt to make it relatable to modern audiences. The movie was heavily miscast with actors that would rather make the characters do slapstick rather than have actual personalities. They also changed the plot from a contest of the characters to show why they deserve to win, to an insane kidnapping plot where the cats are held hostage by a criminal. These changes not only ruined the movie, but also caused the original award-winning musical to be adulterated in the eyes of the viewer.

A movie musical that managed to defy the odds was Tim Burton’s “Sweeney Todd”. “Sweeney Todd” had all the ingredients to become a failure. It had a cast that had not sung before and a director that disliked musicals. However, despite the odds, it turned out to be one of the best movie musicals in recent years. The difference between this and the other examples on this list is the loyalty to the story while still changing the format. Burton took the original story and adapted it to his well known, darker style. This changed the amount of comedy in the play, but kept the story essentially the same.

Modern movie musicals can’t just force a soundtrack and hope the viewers don’t focus on the story. More focus needs to be put in ensuring a balance between story and soundtrack, instead of going all in on one of the two. Songs may be important in a musical, but other aspects should not fall to the wayside.