Every time the characters in “Cyrano” began to sing, I emphatically begged them to stop. The clunky lyrics, the whiny tone, the OK voices — maddening. But because it is a movie, the actors didn’t listen. They just moaned and wailed some more.
Running time: 124 minutes. Rated PG-13 (some strong violence, thematic and suggestive material, and brief language). In theaters.
The moody songs by the band the National ruin Edmond Rostand’s story, “Cyrano de Bergerac,” a classic on par with Shakespeare’s plays but with an unmistakably French, revolutionary spirit. The tale defines what it is to be sweeping.
The original play about a gifted swordsman-poet with a big schnoz, has humor, romance, action and pathos. The new musical film, starring Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones” as the title character, however, leans too much on blubbery emotion, and the whole time you feel like a parent being yelled at by your hormonal teen.
“Cyrano” suffers from exactly the same problems as the 2019 off-Broadway musical it’s based on. Back then I called the show, which also starred Dinklage, “black eyeliner set to music.” That’s still true, only now it’s black eyeliner set to music with lavish sets and costumes.
So, it’s absolutely terrific if you press “mute.”
“Cyrano” is a love story you’ve already seen even if you don’t realize you have. It’s about a French poet who doesn’t look like everybody else (here, the large nose is changed to the character being a little person) yet falls in love with the beautiful Roxanne (Haley Bennett). That’s tough, because not only is she being courted by the wealthy, menacing De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), but she is also infatuated with young, hot, stupid Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).
So, to be closer to her, Cyrano feeds love poems and phrases to Christian for Roxanne, so she can fall in love with him by pretty-boy proxy.
The tale has been adapted countless times — the movie “Roxanne,” an episode of “The Brady Bunch,” the YA comedy “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser,” a 1973 Broadway musical starring Christopher Plummer, among others.
The new movie, directed by Joe Wright and written by Dinklage’s wife Erica Schmidt, ranks with the most lifeless adaptations. Even the swishy dances are a downer.
Dinklage could one day make a very fine Cyrano in a version without singing and more of the humor that made his Tyrion Lannister on “Games of Thrones” a fan favorite. You automatically love him, even here, but his material jumps the gun on the sadness. The movie plays like a two-hour end scene.
Bennett’s Roxanne is elegant, if overly genteel, and her singing voice as recorded doesn’t match the actress very well. Think of it like if Kristin Chenoweth’s singing sounded like Cher.
Harrison Jr. is put in a tough spot, since the title character is less funny than usual. Christian gets saddled with that responsibility, but it doesn’t sit as well on a puppy-dog dunce.
Most frustrating of all is that Glen Hansard, who wrote and starred in the funny and romantic “Once,” plays Guard No. 1. The guy who won an Oscar for the song “Falling Slowly” is Guard No. 1! I’d like to see his “Cyrano” musical instead.