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Repo! The Genetic Opera Review – Sweeney Todd for Teenage Girls

Repo! The Genetic Opera Review – Sweeney Todd for Teenage Girls” width=”560″/>

Plowing the same field as Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd , the rock opera Repo! The Genetic Opera is from director Darren Lynn Bousman of Saw 2, 3 and 4 but it has more imagination and wit than the entire Saw franchise put together. Burton’s Sweeney did the gore musical with more money and bigger stars, but despite its claustrophobic staging and “let’s put on a show” stylization, Repo! still delivers enough blood, guts and musical glory to securely capture its target demographic: Teenage girls. If the teens and tweens who went to see High School Musical 3 wind up taking a look at Repo! then this flick has a chance of becoming a big, big hit. It’s a Miley Cyrus movie for kids who read Twilight and buy Emily the Strange T-shirts.

Kicking off in a series of budget-saving comic book panels, Repo! tells the story of a future world where the mighty GeneCo has cornered the market in replacement organs and body parts. Their payment plans come with a catch, however — miss enough and the Repo Men come and take back that heart, kidney or pair of eyes with a snicker snack slice of their shiny knives. Cut to: A city of goths who plunder graveyards the way homeless people go through the garbage, looking for recyclables they can sell to buy a little something to make all their troubles go away, in this case the mega-effective GeneCo painkiller Zydrate. In the middle of this swirl of black lipstick and latex corsets are two motherless families, the Wallaces and the Largos.

The Largo family owns GeneCo, and Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) rules
his clan with an iron fist. His children are a degenerate bunch waiting
for him to die so they can take over the family business. There’s
daughter Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton) who’s addicted to surgery and his
two warring sons: Rage-a-holic Luigi Largo (cult film stalwart Bill
Moseley) and simpering hedonist Pavi Largo (Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy)
who wears women’s faces over his own mutilated mug.

The Wallace family is just single dad Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and daughter Shilo (Alexa Vega from Spy Kids ).
Mom died in childbirth due to a rare blood disease, and Nathan keeps
Shilo locked up and medicated so that she can avoid her mother’s fate.
But there are secrets shared by the two families, long-buried but just
waiting to burst up out of the grave. The key to these secrets is the
pop culture diva and GeneCo spokesperson, Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman),
a blind chanteuse who knows a thing or two about the bad blood between
Rotti Largo and Nathan Wallace. By the time the film’s over more blood
will flow than in an Anne Rice novel and more high notes will be
screeched than at a Diamanda Galas concert.

Repo!
lives up to its billing, but it’s more opera than rock. Carpeted in
wall-to-wall music most of the songs are effective, with the later
numbers standing head-and-shoulders above the first few. But little of
it is very memorable, although only a teen-rebellion number called
“Seventeen” causes actual cringing. Sarah Brightman — Andrew Lloyd
Webber’s one-time muse — is a diva of the first order and her two
solos are the highlights of the movie, but Anthony Stewart Head gives
her a run for her money. His voice is a little ragged, but he sings
like his heart is on fire and his head is about to explode with
emotions, demonstrating that he’s more than just Giles from Buffy.

Limited to just a few sets (which were reportedly built with money pilfered from one of the Saw movies) and full of campy goth excess, Repo! only
lapses in good taste happen at the expense of Paris Hilton — her face
peels away and falls off while she sings — but bad taste is expected
when you’re dealing with Hilton. Ultimately, this is a kid’s movie for
slightly strange kids who want something a little less mature than Sweeney Todd and a little more adult than High School Musical 3.

Grady Hendrix is one of the founders and programmers of the New York Asian Film Festival. He writes about Asian film for Variety at Kaiju Shakedown and should have found something better to do with his life by now.

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