This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 3rd May 2015
Several years ago, there was a fantastic French film called Les Choristes (The Chorus) about orphaned boys living in a cold-hearted boarding school post-WWII, whose lives are turned around by a tenaciously caring choirmaster. Perhaps due to the delightful lilt of the French language, or maybe because I’m a sucker for those angelic voices, I love that movie.
Boychoir promised a similar charm, albeit one transposed to America with famous actors like Dustin Hoffman at the helm, where young troublemaker Stet (Garrett Wareing, a perfect Disney face) is bundled off to the pre-eminent boy choir academy in the country.
Rejected by family, goaded by a choirmaster who demands perfection, we’re led to believe that Stet must overcome internal obstacles if he is to realise his (completely obvious from the outset) enormous talent. With a major competition on the horizon, how will Stet’s singing career unfold?
Well, ceci n’est pas Les Choristes. So appallingly predictable and laughably earnest, I was tempted just to write “This Film Is Dreadful” – but that’s not entirely fair. The music is sublime (provided you’re not pedantic about Zadok the Priest inheriting a few extra bars and then consisting only of the opening stanza). There are moments where sound meets picture and you are almost transported to heaven, thanks to the casting of the real American Boychoir School.
But the plot, which in fact houses a tragic narrative for its fresh-faced protagonist, is undermined by a total lack of originality and an emotionally unconvincing ending. “Inspiring” monologues from Hoffman fail to stir, while senior actors like Kathy Bates and (*cough*) Eddie Izzard basically phone in their one-note performances.
Boychoir is fine if you like just a touch of plot wrapped around your classical concert experience, but otherwise you’d be better off playing a CD at home.