Preaching to the Choir, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Movies about inspirational music teachers tend to be about either egotistical assholes who drive their students to success through non-stop servings of verbal abuse or meek wallflowers who act as a sort of divining rod for talent. The unimaginatively named Boychoir goes for a different option altogether focusing on the students more than the teachers. Dustin Hoffman (Dick Tracy) mumbles his way through an uninspired performance as the conductor Master Carvelle with the cast and crew following his lead.
Director Francois Girard (The Red Violin) helms this tepid tale of rascally Stet and his misadventures as a newcomer to the titular boychoir. Boychoir is, above all else, a film made for young children so it telegraphs every scene in the broadest of strokes. Stet is such a ragamuffin he gets into fights and breaks into the snack machine! But, surprise of surprises, he has a lovely voice despite being admitted to the school without being able to read sheet music (!!!). Screenwriter Ben Ripley (Species: The Awakening) is so intent on rushing the story from one maudlin plot twist to the next that we rarely get to see the characters stretch their legs.
A handful of actors show some signs of life. Kathy Bates (Fred Claus) has a nice frumpiness to her performance as the Headmistress. Eddie Izzard (Five Children and It) is hard to recognize without his trademark facial hair as the bitchy instructor Drake. Perhaps the best performance of all comes from Kevin McHale (Glee: The 3D Concert) as Wooly, one of the kinder teachers. Garrett Wareing makes his feature film debut in the lead as Stet, but he pouts to the camera with little panache. Stet is supposed to be a smartass and a rebel, but he comes off looking more sad than anything else. Stet’s whole character arc resembles that of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel trilogy except that his struggles result in an operatic performance instead of lost limbs.
Hoffman peeps out an interesting speech far too late in the film on what one should do in a musical performance. His humble mumbles in his prior scenes make the speech more random than moving. An already corny ending falls flat on its face with a pair of clumsy plot twists. Both trite and tired, Boychoir leaves much to be desired.