Underdog Movie Boychoir Struggles to Be as Interesting as Dustin Hoffman’s Performance


The Mid-Atlantic Accent, that most self-conscious of acting choices, can still provide a good self-aware laugh. A particularly snooty variant appears early in François Girard’s Boychoir, by way of Eddie Izzard playing a teacher at a Boy Choir school with maximum haughtiness.

In a different film this might be delicious, but, symptomatically of Boychoir‘s larger problems, this character uncomfortably skewers the tone: Though Izzard is going full camp, Boychoir is incredibly earnest — at times, it veers into the garden-variety sentimentality of underdog sports movies, a subgenre to which it effectively belongs.

Stet (Garrett Wareing) is an impoverished youth who, upon the death of his alcoholic mother, is sent by his absentee father (Josh Lucas) to an elite Boy Choir academy — though Stet may be uncouth, his singing talent is formidable. The academy’s top teacher is Anton Carvelle (Dustin Hoffman), who, naturally, will reform Stet as the film goes on, pushing his musical gifts to ever-higher levels.

In addition to the tonal confusion, Boychoir frustrates in its lack of characterizing Stet’s development — while we see his singing improve, the film withholds more substantive insight into the effects of his instruction.

Boychoir does hit one deeply poignant note, as one character comments upon the ephemeral nature of Stet’s talent: Once he hits adolescence, his singing will never be of the same quality. And Hoffman, naturally, makes his character interesting in the way that genius actors always do. Yet the film’s storytelling struggles to match his level of skill.