Fast-Paised review: 'Rent'

Big question: Broadway really cranks out the musical blockbusters, but Rob Marshall's "Chicago" is the only recent production to really deliver onscreen. Can Chris Columbus' version of "Rent" pay proper dues to the operatic bohemian rhapsody?

Skip it: Most of the performances--almost all from original members of the cast, mind you--still feel trapped onstage; only Jesse L. Martin's soulful Collins and Rosario Dawson's fiery, seductive Mimi truly feel alive. The film's reliance on too many thematically obvious (though marvelously belted) group songs delays evocative conversations like an overdue rent check.

Catch it if: You're shivering on a cold winter night. Dawson's sexy yet sweet performance of "Out Tonight" will make you sweat.

Bottom line: Adding no style of his own, Columbus neutralizes the anger and passion of these artists and AIDS sufferers to little more than distracting cymbal crashes and high-octave wailing. The characters are vaguely carved, emotionally uneven and never established as a credible unit. Worse still, these bohemians--full of liberal loyalties and pop culture knowledge without any exposure to books, television or the world around them--take little action towards social change. Their rebellion goes no farther than a refusal to stop whining.

Bonus: It takes Roger (Adam Pascal) a year to write one song, and what does he come up with? The incredibly lame, clichéd "Your Eyes" that makes Scott Stapp sound like Bob Dylan.

mpais@tribune.com

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'Rent'

Directed by Chris Columbus; screenplay by Stephen Chbosky, based on Jonathan Larson's stage musical; cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt; production design by Howard Cummings; music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson; edited by Richard Pearson; produced by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro, Columbus, Mark Radcliffe and Michael Barnathan. A Columbia Pictures release; opens Wednesday. Running time: 2:15. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material involving drugs and sexuality, and for some strong language).

Mimi - Rosario Dawson

Benny - Taye Diggs

Angel - Wilson Jermaine Heredia

Tom Collins - Jesse L. Martin

Maureen - Idina Menzel

Roger - Adam Pascal

Mark Cohen - Anthony Rapp

Joanne - Tracie Thoms

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