“Les Miserables” (2012, Universal, PG-13, $30), Tom Hooper’s adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical, is a lot of movie.
There are wall-to-wall songs and melodrama and revolutionary politics. But as busy as it is, it works thanks to Hooper’s insistence on making you feel the pain of the characters, particularly Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a poor man once imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread who winds up assuming a false identity and becoming a wealthy factory owner.
Along the way, Valjean memorably encounters a by-the-books police officer (Russell Crowe) and a factory worker named Fantine (Oscar-winning Anne Hathaway) who is forced into prostitution to support her out-of-wedlock daughter.
Valjean does manage to rescue Fantine’s child, Cosette (Allentown’s Amanda Seyfried), saving her from her con-artist guardians the Thenardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen, Helena Bonham Carter).
Seyfried, who made a splash in “Mamma Mia” a few years ago, has a long history with musicals. At a youngster, she auditioned for a Broadway revival of “Annie” after noticing an advertisement for applicants at the Lehigh Valley Mall.
In preparation for the audition, Seyfried began taking voice lessons. She didn’t get the “Annie” job, but she kept studying, with an eye toward learning how to communicate emotion through music.
Seyfried and the rest of the cast members sound terrific in “Les Miserables,” the rare musical that sets out to shake you — and does.