Boychoir: Film Review
Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Josh Lucas, Debra Winger, Kevin McHale, Garett Wareing, Joe West
Director: Francois Girard
Heavenly voices, predictable story and made for TV movie moments.
That pretty much sums up Boychoir, from the French director Girard (The Red Violin). It's the story of Stet, a troubled kid (played sympathetically by Wareing) whose life is chaos at school and turbulent at home with an alcoholic mother.
When the unthinkable happens, Stet finds his life at a cross-roads and despite failing an audition to enter a prestigious musical academy, Stet's estranged father (Josh Lucas) ends up making the school a financial offer it can't afford to ignore to secure him a place, rather than face the indignity of telling his current wife and family that Stet exists.
Thrust into the Harry Potter style school, complete with blonde-haired nemesis and prodigy Devon (West), Stet becomes the underdog in his campaign to get a place on the touring American Boychoir. But under the tutelage of the brisk Carvelle (a genial Hoffman) and a puffy English teacher (Eddie Izzard), will Stet find his voice?
Boychoir hits the right notes in many places, doing exactly what you'd expect of a crowd-pleasing feel good movie that's probably more at home on the small screen than the big.
While there are certainly goosebumps to be had with the singing scenes, the relative one-note characters and drama outside of the Harry Potter and the Chamber Choir antics (Izzard is Snape, Hoffman is Dumbledore, Devon is Draco etc etc) is under-cooked and poorly serviced in terms of development.
Girard steers clear of too much sentimentality though, with several scenes which could have wallowed in the moment brusquely dealt with to help the film's flow. Though, along with Stet's father's dilemma being largely confined to looking troubled through a window, more could have been made of that situation and the crux of the Boychoir dilemma - namely, that their heavenly voices have only a short window to shine through before nature cruelly drops them down a level. Missed opportunities scatter this aria throughout and conspire to drag the film down.
It's a restrained Hoffman who generates some empathy and warmth from Carvelle, whose relationship with Stet could have easily fallen into some kind of musical Full Metal Jacket scenario, but wisely shows the power a proficient and caring teacher can make to a child's life. Wareing manages well too in his first lead, with the wide-eyed and naturalistic turn helping the more predictable and by-the-numbers elements of the plot along.
Ultimately, Boychoir offers a feeling of deja-vu; in the likes of Mr Holland's Opus, we've seen it all before, but, thanks to a lack of over-egging the pudding, the one note nature of the story just about manages to leave you with a warm glow.