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The Ten Worst Performances In Modern Movie Musicals


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I cannot stand it when bad singers are cast in musicals.

As a pretentious theatre-kid for life, I have a lot of opinions and a lot of emotions about silver screen adaptions of my sacred musical theatre. In honor of Emma Watson's turn as Belle - which from the previews sounds more auto-tuned than the Black Eyed Peas - I'm counting down the worst performances in modern movie musicals.

Rules for Inclusion:

- I'm defining "modern" as post-2000

- I'm only looking at movies adapted from staged shows (I'm not messing with From Justin to Kelly or HSM)

Special Recognition: Emmy Rossum's delivery of "MY"

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Christine is supposed to be an opera singer. Honestly, it's actually offensive in this movie that theater employees plug their ears in annoyance at Carlotta (the bonafide Margaret Preece supplying vocals) vastly superior take on Think of Me, while swooning over Rossum's small, nasal, version.

This moment - the note she murders in "Trying too hard to put you from MYYYYY mind" - haunts my dreams.

10. Uma Thurman, The Producers

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I was super excited when they announced a film version of The Producers with much of the Broadway cast, but it ended up being a huge disappointment. It's like they tried to directly transpose the stage musical to screen, and it just didn't work. Uma is one of the new cast members and she proves quickly that she is not a singer. Ulla is a critical role as she is the only woman of note in the entire show (#thanksmelbrooks). She falls flat. They try to help her out by lowering the key of Ulla's (supposed-to-be) showstopper "When You've Got it, Flaunt It", but by the end she's honestly just yelling.

9. The entire cast of Nine (minus Fergie)

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Did you forget about this movie? I did (Thanks for reminding me, Steve!). Daniel Day-Lewis starred, and prepared for the role by robbing Fellini's grave and living inside his bones for a year on the streets of Rome. The movie has a shockingly star-studded cast. Joining Day-Lewis is Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren, Kate Hudson, and Fergie. Fergie is perfection in her small role of Saraghina, and the rest……range from aggressively mediocre to dully bad. It's hard to make something with so much star power and method acting that is so boring, so emotionless. The whole thing is really just a waste. In the end, you question, was any of this worth it? The answer is no.

8. Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd and Into the Woods

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Stop. Casting. Johnny. Depp. In. Musicals. 1. Because he's a wife-beating a$$hole. 2. Because Sondheim just doesn't deserve this. Sure, Cry Baby was fun a million years ago, but Depp just isn't that good. Tim Burton, you're so weirdly blinded by your intense bromance that you cast a woefully inadequate singer in one of the most demanding male roles in musical theatre.

Into the Woods isn't entirely Depp's fault because he was put in the unenviable position of delivering the lines "Look at that flesh/Pink and plump/Hello, little girl…" in a non-sexual way after Disney decided to go with a much younger Red, but still (also - he really failed in that department). Johnny Depp isn't tone deaf, but he isn't good, either, and in these roles, that won't cut it.

7. Amanda Seyfried, Les Misérables

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At least we didn't get Taylor Swift as Eponine? Look, Seyfried seriously doesn't have the pipes for this role. This is an ambitious musical, everyone. It will expose all of your flaws if you're only a passable singer (*cough* Amanda! *cough*). As 1/3 of the love triangle alongside Eddie Redmayne and Samantha Barks, she sticks out like a sore thumb. A sore thumb that has way less vocal range than Hollywood seems to think she has.

6. Helena Bonham Carter, Sweeney Todd

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You get the distinct feeling that Carter was only cast because of her gothic-chic aesthetic aaaaaand also she was married to the director. #nepotism. Her voice is weak, and small, and just completely wrong for the material. She tries her best to distract us from her vocal fragility through good acting (albeit in her typecast outcast persona), but alas, this is a role far too demanding for her. Burton, you know other actresses exist, right?

5. Gerard Butler, Phantom of the Opera

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Oh Gerard. You're so dreamy. And you're just so wrong for this part. I have a lot of weird affection for this movie despite its MANY flaws, so I've seen it a number of times. And I feel like every time I watch it, Butler gets worse and worse. This is one of the penultimate male roles in musical theatre. This movie tried to employ a lot of tricks to distract from Butler's lack of singing skills - bringing in the brass to cover his vocals on "let your spirit start to soar", over-using breathiness to convey emotion, making the Phantom really damn sexy, etc. But none of it distracts enough. He's just bad.

4. Alec Baldwin, Rock of Ages

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Alec Baldwin knows what he hath wrought. He reflected on this role by reminiscing, "A week in, you go, ‘Oh God, what have I done?’” Indeed. I guess it's nice to be self-aware - he even asked the studio to replace him - but, alas, we are still punished with the existence of this performance (and honestly, the existence of this entire movie). This is like watching bad karaoke, except it's like 3 AM karaoke when you're not drunk anymore and this stopped being fun two hours ago and you just want to go to bed, damn it!

3. Cameron Diaz, Annie

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So, full disclosure, I don't like Cameron Diaz in almost anything, but this is egregious. I get the feeling that beyond trying to modernize the musical, they changed this song 1) to fit Cameron's vocal limitations and 2) to desperately deter comparison's to the genius of Carol Burnett's version. When speaking about her role in Annie, Diaz said, "I don't sing as bad as I do in My Best Friend's Wedding." Not as bad as her karaoke in My Best Friend's Wedding is quite the low bar. She apparently also cried "uncontrollably" the first two times she had to sing in front of the rest of the cast, which probably makes me really mean for this critique, but c'mon, this is straight up awful.

2. Pierce Brosnan, Mamma Mia

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I…..I honestly don't know how we got here. The first moment someone heard a note come from his throat (which, I can only assume from the sound, is made of actual rusty pipes), why didn't they stop this? Who heard him sing and thought, "We can work with this?" You can't. How did Brosnan himself not stop what was going on? Why didn't he just go full Rex Harrison? How has he not died of embarrassment yet? Mamma Mia has a lot of problems (guys, I'm sorry, but Meryl is not great), but this just overshadows everything. This performance is literally painful.

1. Russell Crowe, Les Misérables

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And here we are. The performance that fills me with the most nerd rage. Do I even have to describe this? If you've seen Les Mis, you know the horror. Pierce is actually the worse singer, but Russell's casting in this is a true human travesty. In this deeply emotional melodrama, a performance this bad just taints the entire thing. Crowe's rendition of Javert's Suicide is honestly laughable…which, y'know, is exactly the opposite of how it should play. Who let this happen? Was it you, Hugh Jackman? How could you betray us like that?

Moments that make me die: "Is he from Heaven or from Helllllllll" and "there is no way to go ONNNNNNN" *audible splat*

There's no excuse for this.

There are plenty of famous actors who have some serious chops and have turned in fantastic performances in movies. There are plenty of Broadway stars who are wonderful actors. Hell, we could go back to the days of dubbing. But PLEASE Hollywood, stop this nonsense. For the sake of the nerdy theatre-kid in all of us.

Here's hoping you don't make this list next time, Emma

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