Some of the best films are coming of age stories, where the underdog finds their place in a group and succeeds beyond expectations. It’s a structure that has been rolled out over and over again.
Stet is a troubled 11-year old boy living in poverty with an alcoholic mother and an estranged father. When his single mother is killed, Stet’s father drops him off at the exclusive boarding school and home of the American Boychoir where the boys listen to classical music, study musical theory and dress like the cast of Dead Poets Society.
Boychoir draws obvious comparisons with another underdog story, Billy Elliot, without too long a bow. Where Billy came from the wrong side of the tracks to succeed in ballet, Stet comes from the wrong side of the tracks to become the lead boy soprano in The American Boychoir.
The story is gentle and simple. Garrett Wareing as Stet is understated and meets the brief of the wide-eyed singing prodigy. Dustin Hoffman as Stet’s strict choral master, Kathy Bates as the stoic school principal, Eddie Izzard as the frustrated deputy choral master and Kevin McHale (of Glee fame, now wheelchair free) as the supportive tutor who spies Stet’s talent, rounds out a stellar supporting cast.
The performances alone are worth the watch, however Boychoir would benefit from a meatier story with at least some plot that is unexpected or less meandering. The stakes are not quite high enough and the odds are not quite difficult enough to overcome to bring much needed drama to the piece.
Equally, with stately venues like Yale University and other institutional locations, there is a noticeable lack of picturesque settings, primarily remaining within darkened classrooms and chilly choir rooms. It’s an opportunity missed as a backdrop, adding to the understated progression of the film.
Audiences who enjoy classical choral music sung by young, pure voices will not be disappointed and are likely to purchase the soundtrack, but Stet’s triumph is less inspiring than other characters who have beat the underdog’s path to greatness.
Reviewed by Hayley Horton
Rating out of 10: 6
Boychoir will be released on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital on 26 August 2015