You know the story by now. In fact, you’ve heard it many times: the underdog battling against adversity, the diamond rough around the edges, the prejudiced task master he must prove wrong. The joy in the retelling of stories, of course, is their familiarity. Like a child asking for the same story every bedtime, a trope we all know is a comfort, a reassurance. We want what we know, but we want it done well. The Choir (original title Boychoir) offers up the fairytale we all know, but unfortunately, it is not done particularly well.
Stet, played by Garett Wareing, is a working-class 12-year-old with an alcoholic single mother. After his mother is killed in a car accident, Stet is left in limbo, with no other family and nowhere to go. Except that he does have family: a father who has kept him secret, who mysteriously reappears at his mother’s death, if only to try to get rid of him. The father (Josh Lucas) suggests foster care, but Stet has a talent, and his teacher an alternative – a prestigious boarding school, famed for its boy choir.
What follows is a story seen before, many times. Stet is a hurt, angry young man out of place in the exclusive school, talented but lacking the technical skills honed by the other boys. The boys, of course, mock and bully him, and the teaching staff are little better. Dustin Hoffman is the demanding choirmaster pained by Stet’s lack of understanding of music and infuriated by his behaviour, while Eddie Izzard’s Drake believes the school is damaging its integrity by taking him on.
The Choir does not attempt anything new, which is a shame, given the cast (Kathy Bates is the school’s matronly headmistress). The film is undoubtedly aiming to be uplifting and inspiring, but the hackneyed script and lack of real character development robs it of this effect. The music is wonderful, if overused (does it need to be so obvious in non-musical scenes?) and the relationship between Stet and his rival Devon provides some interesting moments but in the end, The Choir is unoriginal and unsatisfying, never even attempting to overcome or enhance the conventions of its genre.
The Choir is released nationwide on 10th July 2015.
Watch the trailer for The Choir here: