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Review: Andrea Bocelli biopic ‘The Music of Silence’ hits all the wrong notes

****HOLIDAY SNEAKS 2018***DO NOT USE PRIOR TO SUNDAY, JANUARY 14, 2018********(L-R) - Toby Sebastian
Toby Sebastian, left, and Antonio Banderas in the movie “The Music of Silence.”
(Sabrina Cirillo)

Merging pop and opera, blind Italian singing phenomenon Andrea Bocelli has become one of the biggest global entertainers. The new authorized biopic “The Music of Silence,” however, is a range-constricted slog through the dreariest of showbiz-ascension clichés.

Inexplicably, the story is presented — with Bocelli appearing in bracketing scenes — as an alter ego saga about a sight-afflicted Tuscan boy named Amos (played as an adult by Toby Sebastian) who turns a childhood of loneliness and singing promise into a dead-end gig at a piano bar, until rigorous tutelage under an unnamed maestro (Antonio Banderas) triggers a shot at the big time.

And yet there’s never a sense from the hackneyed screenplay by director Michael Radford and Anna Pavignano what music, opera, art, great composers, performing, anything, means to Amos/Andrea as a life force, a reason for existing. The score has all the heft of Muzak, or it serves as a succession of opera signifiers: “O Sole Mio” is a competition tune; “Ave Maria” is sung at a wedding; and “Nessun Dorma,” sung in front of millions, signifies achieved fame.

Far from suggesting a hardship overcome to fulfill a passion, the movie has the privileged air of annoyingly delayed stardom, born out by Sebastian’s generally mopey petulance, and characters — Italian actors reciting embarrassing dialogue in English — primarily there to coddle our hero. When Banderas shows up, easily exuding authority and personality, it’s practically a relief. Otherwise, the pedestrian filmmaking and community-theater pacing mostly recalls PBS pledge drives hawking Bocelli records.

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‘The Music of Silence’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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