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Choir, The

6/10

Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Garrett Wareing, Kathy Bates, Eddie Izzard, Josh Lucas, Kevin McHale, Debra Winger, River Alexander, Joe West

Director: Fran├žois Girard

There haven't been too many movies about boy choirs. It's tough to make entertainment out of this subject for sure, so The Choir dumbs down its screenplay to keep our interest sparking.

The result: music that may make you gasp, but a screenplay that often produces giggles and the occasional outright guffaw.

Angry at the world and burdened with an alcoholic single mother, angelic-looking Stet (Wareing) is obstructive and even destructive in the classroom, despite being one of the smartest there. When his mother is killed in a car crash, Stet is saved from foster-parenting by a kindly teacher (Winger), who puts the bite on his biological dad (Lucas) to get him into the National Boys' Choir School; the boy's God-given vocal talent does, of course, help, although he soon finds himself an outsider at the music school.

Fortunately, the chief choirmaster (Hoffman) is no J K Simmons from Whiplash and gets the best from his charges by gentler, more technical persuasions.

The story thereafter follows familiar movie lines: a rivalry springs up between Stet and the reigning boy soloist (West), who conveniently goes down with a throat infection on the eve of a major concert - although he exacts a measure of revenge on Stet by stealing his music, leading to a shaky start and a subsequent explosive confrontation.

It's all formula stuff, but Hoffman is fantastically good (his delivery here reminds you of Alastair Cooke's famous old Letters from America), with Bates as the tough old principal not far behind. The boys are only adequate actors, but the singing is divine.

David Quinlan

Canada 2014. UK Distributor: Curzon/Artificial Eye. Colour by The Film Factory.
103 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 05 Jul 2015