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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 Lybarger

"I preferred the ‘Lease’ segment of ‘Team America: World Police.’"
2 stars

Perhaps this 1996 reworking of the Pucinni opera ‘La Boheme’ worked better on stage, although I always thought it was odd that the late Jonathan Larson had written a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about poor people that the destitute could never afford to see. On film, this look at a year in the life of New York Bohemians feels pompous and torpid. Yes, they may warble about poverty, AIDS and rebellion, but it’s hard to care.

‘Rent’ follows a group of struggling and pretentious artists who have yet to make their mark on the world. Because it’s 1989 and several of them have AIDS, getting regular jobs may not be an option. Roger (Adam Pascal) is a mediocre singer-songwriter who’s trying to write one great tune before he dies.

Unfortunately, despite giving up groupies and drugs, the disease might get to him first. He’s also got the unenviable task of being able to tell a hot stripper named Mimi (Rosario Dawson) viruses will probably doom their love.

His roommate Matt (Anthony Rapp) is an aspiring filmmaker who talks (and sings) a lot about the craft, but he always seems to be rewinding and reloading his camera during moments that could make for potentially interesting footage.

On stage watching Matt tinker with an antiquated camera that doesn’t seem to have a microphone might carry dramatic weight, but in a movie incredulity trumps suspension of disbelief. With a nearly bare stage, it’s probably easier to buy this whole situation, but real-looking squalor makes the story seem curiously phony.

It’s a bit hard to care if either Matt or Roger get evicted for welching on their rent to a former fellow Bohemian named Benny (Taye Diggs, in a thanklessly caricatured role). The two also have to deal with Matt’s angst of being jilted by his faithless girlfriend Maureen (Indina Menzel). She’s taken up with a lawyer named Joanne (Tracie Thoms, who gives the film’s only appealing performance).

There’s also an annoying drag queen named Angel (Wilson Jermaine Heredia) and a philosophy professor named Tom Collins (Jesse L. Martin). Yes, his name is about as clever as “Rent” gets.
Age has not been kind to this story or its characters. What must have seemed novel in 1996 on stage seems rather quaint now.

I can think of several films like Derek Jarman’s “Blue” that dealt with the subject of AIDS in a much more mature and sophisticated way. In “Rent,” the disease and the tragedies that accompany it seem like a gimmick. “Rent” at times seems to trivialize the situations that inspired it.

Under Chris Columbus’ pedestrian direction (he’s left the “Harry Potter” series to more accomplished filmmakers like Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell), we never feel the loss when the characters either die or are in danger. Columbus has little eye for composition and couldn’t edit a dance sequence to save his life. The “Tango Maureen” sequence that should have been showstopper seems flat because we really can’t follow what the dancers are doing.

Casting many of the original Broadway stars does guarantee quality singing, but 30-something Bohemians are a lot harder to take than 20-something ones. Smugness is harder to take when its parishioners are old enough to know better. On stage Maureen, with her performance art that is worse than parody, Matt and Angel must have been endearing. Here, they are obnoxiously shrill.

While Columbus and screenwriter Stephen Chbosky deserve a lot of the blame for failing to make the characters engaging, much of the blame for the underwhelming nature of “Rent” lies sadly at creator Larson’s doorstep.

The songs that are the basis of the whole film are surprisingly dull and forgettable. “Rent” is supposed to be a rock opera, but the songs don’t exactly kick out the jams. They lack the energy or seductiveness of good rock-n-roll, and they lack the wit or finesse of good show tunes. “Rent” straddles the line between rock and Broadway, and neither comes out ahead.

Not every stage musical begs to make it to the big screen. Despite its good intentions and stage pedigree, “Rent” deserves an eviction notice.

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originally posted: 11/25/05 12:51:17
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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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