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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie depicts young boys acting out at a boarding school. They set booby traps for faculty members, sneak cigarettes when left alone, and use some foul language. The headmaster of the school has little patience with the boys and resorts to heavy paddlings. He even puts some of the worst troublemakers into a solitary confinement cell. A significant theft of school funds occurs, and one of the boys is the culprit. When the boys called upon by the school prefect to sing any songs they might know, a few contain toilet-based or sexual lyrics.
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What's the story?
THE CHORUS tells the childhood story of a famous conductor named Pierre. In the 1940s, the troublemaking boy has a hard time at his dull boarding school with its strict headmaster. But everything changes for the better for the boarding school boys -- especially Pierre -- when a new teacher arrives and starts a choir.
Is it any good?
This is a very watchable film, thanks in no small part to the gorgeous music. American critics have largely lambasted this huge French hit, criticizing it for being too similar to other uplifting school-based movies. Surely enough, it comes across as a mix between Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) and Dead Poet's Society (1989), albeit with younger students, but two things set it apart from those films. First, the many threads of the plot are treated more neatly, never allowing one narrative strand, or actor's performance, to overpower any of the others. Secondly, the choral music, actually performed by a handpicked boys choir, is unequivocally beautiful and emotionally stirring.
With those unique elements, the actual story trajectories are pretty predictable, and there's no tension or action of any sort. Depending on one's mood, some of the more sentimental scenes may come across as too sugary. However, the core of the film, a warmhearted faculty member encouraging a group of students to channel their restless energies into singing beautiful music, is captivating, and anyone with a passing interest in music will find something very pleasing in that.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the state of the boarding school prior to the formation of the choir. Why did the boys act out? Was it because of the headmaster's abusive tactics? Why doesn't the headmaster correct the thief's mistaken identity with the police? How does Mr. Mathieu's interest in Morhange's mother lead him to to treat the boy differently?