When last seen, British director Tom Hooper had just overseen a historical biography about a stammering monarch, someone who felt ill-equipped to take the throne, a chap who couldn't get a sentence out without scrunching up in agony. The King's Speech, a runaway success.
There is certainly no stammering to be had, or heard, in Les Misérables, Hooper's sweeping adaptation of the Broadway musical, and destined, one suspects, for box-office glory, too. Based on Victor Hugo's hefty classic, and given an operetta treatment that can be soaring and glorious - or, when the lyrics slip into anachronistic vernacular, wincingly lame - this big-budget movie musical summons the mighty forces of CGI to create vast tableaux of castles and monasteries, shipyards and slums, France in the tumultuous first half of the 19th century.
Les Misérables also summons the mighty tonsils of Hugh Jackman, the multitasking Australian, in the role of Jean Valjean. A prisoner hounded for decades by Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe, another Aussie!), Valjean undergoes a spiritual transformation - and a change of identity - becoming a successful factory owner and all-round benevolent guy.
When one of his workers, Fantine (the scene-stealing Anne Hathaway), loses her job and ends up on the street, and then in a brothel, Valjean belatedly tries to make amends, promising to watch over Fantine's waif of a child, Cosette. Cue "Come to Me," "Fantine's Death," and "The Confrontation." No, Javert will not go away!