Pavarotti ★★½

Ron Howard’s “Pavarotti” is a warm but distant (and hagiographic) documentary about the most lucrative tenor who’s ever lived. It opens with its boisterous namesake belting out an aria in the middle of the Amazon, and then spends the rest of its running time showing us how the humble son of an Italian baker managed to fulfill his dream of bringing opera to the entire world. That’s a hell of a story — more than compelling enough to sustain a well-edited womb-to-tomb portrait that moves along a clean upward trajectory.

But while this film provides an open invitation for people to rediscover Pavarotti’s genius, the man behind the Maestro remains something of a mystery. If the best moments of Howard’s doc suggest that Pavarotti was a pure soul whose generosity resonated as strongly as his vibrato, the worst stretches leave the flimsy impression that this larger-than-life figure was just an empty vessel for the 20th century’s fullest voice.

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