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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 6.12%
Average: 12.24%
Pretty Bad: 25.51%
Total Crap: 18.37%

7 reviews, 56 user ratings

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by Erik Childress

"A Giant Open Sore Of A Musical"
2 stars

I’ve never heard such an instant bit of solidarity than I did after the screening of Rent and it wasn’t specific to the film itself. It’s what happens when a fan of musical theater (or film) can sense the hatred brimming from those surrounding them. The assumption is always the same – we must hate musicals. When this speculation was put to the test this very day, four of us could not have timed our “NO’s” better. It would have been 6.1 stereo if we had two more critics and a subwoofer. No, we do not hate musicals. Maybe Chris Columbus - but not musicals. Nevertheless, the smash broadway hit is now a movie and if I had seen it then I would be saying the same thing as I am now in that it is one of the dumbest of all musicals, filled with cringe-inducing lyrics and a narrative that wouldn’t pass as a concept album filmed with the Bee Gees. Think Angels In America crossed with Tommy created by someone with no training in the world of drama or songwriting.

The history of Rent on Broadway is a heartwarming tragedy to its fans. Jonathan Larson, its writer, died of a brain aneurysm on the night of the final dress rehearsal in 1996 and then posthumously won a pair of Tony awards, including one for its music & lyrics. Cynically its easy to assume that if Larson had lived, it would have been the play that died a quick death. But in the bizarro world where theater snobs can be as warmed over as much as film geeks were over Il Postino, the show did go on…and on…and on.

Now its ten years later and in a rare nod to its origins, have maintained ¾ of the original cast. A nice gesture but doesn’t quite lend itself over to the Bohemian lifestyle when their average age is nearly 35. Maybe in their mid-twenties when life is just ahead of them (albeit a blur) but it’s a bit pathetic to watch parties in their mid-thirties struggle with not “selling out” for a paycheck. These are just ancillary concerns on top of the material itself.

On a street in New York that looks more like general population, at least during the second musical number (a poor, rancid attempt compared to the Little Shop of Horrors“Skid Row” opener) with flaming garbage spilled over the side, Mark (Anthony Rapp) and Roger (Adam Pascal) live rent-free in a studio apartment thanks to old friend Benny (Taye Diggs) who has sold out to corporate America. Get used to that phrase. Benny is prepared to evict them though unless they can convince outspoken home-challenged-person-thingy, Maureen (Idina Menzel) to cancel a one-night-only show designed to rile up tons of Starbucks expellees.

Mark is distraught because Maureen dumped him for uptown lawyer, Joanne (Tracie Thoms). Yes, that makes her a lesbian – a fact that the characters beat to death with more breath than a screening of the film at Alabama Jake’s Monster Truck Rub ‘N’ Tug. Roger is getting ass flirtation (literally and lyrically) from upstairs neighbor, Mimi (Rosario Dawson) who splits her time between smack and perfoming the oddest (non)strip club routines since Teri Hatcher and her drum solo titillation in Tango & Cash. Don’t these guys realize they aren’t getting their cover charge worth? There’s another old friend named Tom…..Collins (Jesse L. Martin) who gets beat up and winds up meeting streetbucket drummer, Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) who share dialogue like this:

Angel: “I’m going to my life support meeting.”
Angel: “It’s for people with AIDS.”
Angel: “Like me.”
Tom: “Me too.”

Thankfully such Beavis & Butthead-esque dialogue is kept to a minimum since barely anyone has a complete conversation of any meaning before bursting into song….where the same kind of dialogue is set to music! (“You….Me….Mimi!”). If we’re going to forego the dramas of friendship, romance and the crippling disease which plagued the homosexual community back in the eighties (the play is set in 1989) then it must be the songs we can look to in order to dispel the funkification of a collection of characters that hippies would have been embarrassed to be around.

I counted at least 21 songs in Rent – and that’s cut DOWN from the stage version. By missing or not counting reprises, the soundtrack has 28 listings. The original cast recording has 43. FORTY-THREE!!! Evita had 31 tracks and it was ALL song. The opening number, "Seasons of Love", was an earsore the minute I heard it but its grown on me if for no other reason then it being one of the three memorable songs and maybe the only one that sounds like it belongs in a songwriter’s portfolio. My ears also stopped bleeding during the recurring “There’s Only Us” anthem and Rosario Dawson’s number “Out Tonight” which is the only number capable of providing an insight into what any of the characters are all about.

Rapp’s Mark is one of those generic film school rejects making a documentary that nobody in their right mind would want to see except its subjects (on the only Bolex camera in existence that apparently records sound) which he wouldn’t sell anyway. There’s jealousy between Joanne and Maureen because there will always be women in rubber flirting with her. Maureen’s words, I swear to God. Despite singing in every other scene, the Daltrey-esque Roger is taking an entire year to write a love ballad so trite that you could hear the collective embarrassment of every hair band of the 80s. And everyone else has AIDS. Or do they?

That’s the clear joke of Trey Parker & Matt Stone’s “Lease” parody from Team America, but a blanket infection of anything but good taste is hard to identify, muting the point past anyone really coming to terms with the disease. Tom & Angel are clearly on the forefront (see above dialogue if it was ever unclear.) One guy at an AIDS meeting starts a scene singing, but we have no idea who the hell he is. Roger once dated a girl during his drug dependency days who got the positive test, but what about him? There’s a suggestion made for him to attend a Life Support meeting, which he first balks at, but then attends in what can hardly be considered an emotional payoff at the 52-minute mark. And if he is HIV+, then why is carrying on a frivolous relationship with junkie Mimi? Oh wait – SHE is HIV, too? Unless ticket buyers are given a press release to refer back to (as I was), its going to be a long trip to figuring that out. Positive or negative, these are two characters who never once acknowledge either the risk of their behavior or the consequences they are already facing. Far be it for me to start wagging a moral finger, plus there’s enough shame to go around without me adding to the mix.

If you find yourself falling down the same Rent hole while watching the film and wondering how it could possibly get any worse – just wait. There’s PERFORMANCE ART! And despite Maureen hanging it from her belt, no amount of cowbell can be prescribed to break this fever dream. The most positive thing that can be said about the film adaptation of Rent is that it is not the cast’s fault. Nor is it Chris Columbus’. They are doing precisely what they were set up to do. Maybe one of them should have stepped up and stopped this catastrophe, but there is talent on display and there’s no reason to criticize someone on Karaoke night just because you think the song they’re singing sucks. Both Dawson and Thoms do fine work stepping in for the absentee cast members and fans of Rent (and c’mon already) will find little to complain about. Those of us who like good musicals have a long list and an appointment with an otolaryngologist.

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originally posted: 11/23/05 16:25:45
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User Comments

4/03/14 Toni Let's play How Many Times Can Rent Make You Cringe. I've lost count 1 stars
9/19/13 Annie G I feel like I saw a different film than the reviewer - not too bad. 3 stars
11/19/12 Meredith B Beautiful version of the Broadway play! 5 stars
11/23/09 Jeff Wilder Good overall. But duplicates play rather than translates it into a cinematic form. 3 stars
11/19/08 Rachel wtf is with you haters? this movie is amazing, I cried at the funeral! 5 stars
4/28/08 Not too bad 1/2 of people who loved the movie here launched ad-hominem attacks on those who didn't. 3 stars
10/24/07 Ivana Mann This musical bites.Pure & simple.It's like an opera written by Beyonce.Utter poo! 1 stars
6/15/07 Danielle Ophelia Is it relevant? Yes. Is it worth your time? Probably not. 2 stars
4/18/07 David Pollastrini it was better on stage 3 stars
4/13/07 Anikka If you aren't mature and open enough to understand this movie don't watch it. It's amazing. 5 stars
4/02/07 marg Worst. Film. Wver. 1 stars
2/26/07 Loryn This is so off base it don't even merit a comment... 5 stars
2/21/07 johnnyfog Really clumsy in the beginning, but the material shines through enough to be alright 4 stars
2/13/07 Jenny RENT is amazing. You must be insane or so closed minded to have it not inspire you. 5 stars
12/26/06 johnnyfog I may be biased but Rosario's a goddess. Well she IS! 5 stars
11/28/06 venessa i think it was a nice play coverin a wide range of social issues.i didnt un/stand some part 5 stars
11/04/06 Reena Saw the play, it kicked ass, the movie... not so much, but still good. 4 stars
11/03/06 Pam My favorite movie! I dont know how people can hate it! 5 stars
10/17/06 ali absolutely amazing!! story line is heartfelt and moving! 5 stars
10/03/06 amityjo Saw the play. Hated it. Saw the movie. Hated it more. 1 stars
8/22/06 Alicia amazing, i absolutely loved it! 5 stars
7/30/06 Parker L this reviewer is a completely soulless jerk. this movie is moving as the show 5 stars
7/24/06 Constantine Mantelo Excruciating!!! (And that comes from someone who loves musicals) 1 stars
7/04/06 Evil Wolfie A good message, but unbearably bad music and lyrics. 2 stars
5/23/06 Sophia D. It was one of the BEST movies i EVER saw. I absolutely loved it and i love to sing to it. 5 stars
5/21/06 Angelluver People who don't like RENT are either too stupid or too miserable to enjoy it. 5 stars
5/08/06 Diane Perkins Loved this movie so much. Every actors performance flawless 5 stars
4/01/06 mela the best movie-musical i've seen since chicago 5 stars
3/24/06 Epi I love rent, and this loser critic doesn't know anything... 5 stars
2/20/06 Perry Mason The songs are just laughably bad. Almost as bad as an Andrew Lloyd Webber production. 1 stars
1/30/06 Andrew the film was excellent 5 stars
1/18/06 al thought the cast was great,dont care how old they are 4 stars
1/17/06 ella as a recovering "renthead", this movie was a terrible dissapointment 2 stars
1/04/06 Piz Jumps around a lot but for a musical-turned-movie it wasn't horrible. 3 stars
12/18/05 kasey I went to see it twice, I loved it so much! Must go with an open mind to enjoy it. 5 stars
12/12/05 Bill Stunning ensemble performances; those who don't get it are missing a gene from the pool 5 stars
12/09/05 Amy A whole lot of music, movement, dance, drama and angst in this movie. I'd see it again! 5 stars
12/05/05 Eric His name is Mark not Matt. It's like you didnt even pay attention. 5 stars
12/04/05 BrianWilly Heartfelt and beautiful 5 stars
12/04/05 Erica You must be open minded to enjoy this show!! Amazing and breathtaking!!! Loved it! 5 stars
12/04/05 Kelly Absolutely stunning! Worth a second see! 5 stars
12/02/05 John Ford Other than the opening number, this movie really blows. It's hard to follow the characters 1 stars
11/30/05 joey squids stupidest movie i ever saw....i walked out after an hour 1 stars
11/30/05 John Linton Roberson Everything I hated about my early twenties combined in one film. Oh joy. 1 stars
11/29/05 Zari Lopez I think the criticisms for the musical are unwarranted. The movie, acceptable. 4 stars
11/29/05 Jim Dude, you bust the film but get the characters wrong....MARK, not MATT 4 stars
11/28/05 Governor11201 Fame! + AIDS = CRAP 1 stars
11/28/05 Grandma Mil The best: Tango Maureen.Like La Boheme? You've got to be kidding! 2 stars
11/28/05 G Far better than any Chris Columbus film has a right to be. 4 stars
11/26/05 avoidance It's true, EVERYONE in New York has AIDS. 2 stars
11/26/05 hoosierpeach Moving, delightful, STILL Relevant Still TRUE 5 stars
11/26/05 Will Goody Juvenile and Dated 1 stars
11/25/05 baseball-nut Save your money! 2 stars
11/25/05 Jon Leonoudakis A hollow, soul-less take that lacks the grit and heart of the musical. 3 stars
11/24/05 hibbyX Rosario Dawson is ugly. There, I said it. 1 stars
11/24/05 kokoro its XANADU for grad students 2 stars
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  23-Nov-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 21-Feb-2006



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