I know I'm going to get hate mail for this review. "Moulin Rouge" is just one of those movies. Everybody just adores it, and you're stuck there thinking "what?" Sure, I could see where everybody's coming from. Love story, good production values, pop songs, and all that jazz. But "Moulin Rouge" is a movie that is as easy to despise as it is to love.
The premise is simple. Take a whole bunch of pop music, plop it in the middle of a turn-of-the-century atmosphere and stick in a love story. Some would say such simple words wouldn't be enough to describe this film, but really, that's all it is. "Moulin Rouge" seems more like a reason for a soundtrack than a film.
Ewan McGregor is Christian, an aspiring poet traveling to France for inspiration. Little does he know, inspiration will without a doubt come his way soon, in the form of Satine (Nicole Kidman), a popular courtesan working in the Moulin Rouge. He instantly falls in love, but of course, he can't live happily ever after with her ("The only way of lovin' me, baby, is to pay a lovely fee!") And Satine has other plans for her future than spending it with Christian, and as her dreams to become an actress start to turn into reality, the greedy Duke of Monroth tries to bind her exclusively to him. So, take this, throw in "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Like A Virgin" and more, and what do you get? A ludicrous fiasco that's not even fun enough to be a sequel to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (yes, that IS a movie...)
For a while in the beginning, the film is a joy to watch. But this lasts only a few minutes, for as the story starts to develop, the film stops having fun with itself and begins to set up a serious, dramatic mood. That would work if this was any other movie. But in "Moulin Rouge", the utter ridiculousness of the placement of pop songs undermines anything notable. In the first scenes, I smiled when Christian randomly blurts out "The Sound of Music" and "All You Need is Love". Very quickly, however, I was getting tired of all the oo-la-la. By the time Zidler (Jim Broadbent) is singing "Like A Virgin", I was laughing at them, not with them. And don't even mention the ill-timed musical number set to "Roxanne".
I have to admit though, Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman certainly do have the pipes to carry out the job. They sing with passion (the same can't be said about a certain Mariah Carey) and truly bring out some spirit in the middle of all the chaos. It's too bad the film is such a pain, because they give performances worthy of recognition. The rest of the cast seems like they're having a good time, which does make the film slide along a little easier.
"Moulin Rouge" starts with an idea that something could be done with. However, director Baz Luhrmann sells-out completely, completely giving his movie up for commercial success. There is really little inspiration after the first shots, and the premise might be able to sustain for two hours if the way it was carried out wasn't so gag-inducing. Quick note to Mr. Luhrmann: it's a very bad sign when you're is laughing so hard during dramatic moments that at the end, your friend turns to you and suggests you leave "before the people in the back start shooting".