Kevin Kline shines in uplifting 'Emperor's Club'
By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service
|THE EMPEROR'S CLUB (Rated PG-13 for profanity, some sexual content) Three Stars (Good)
Echoes of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" and "Dead Poets Society" resonate through the ivy-covered halls of this latest uplifting drama in the prep-school movie tradition. Kevin Kline is superb as a devoted teacher whose lessons in integrity resound for years in his students. Michael Hoffman directs. Universal, 109 minutes.
But although the setting is familiar, Michael Hoffman's film stakes out its own theme the concept of integrity, whether it's in your approach to a school assignment or to your behavior as an adult.
Integrity is at the core of William Hundert's lectures on the Greek and Roman classics. And the ramifications of his teaching stretch well into the adult lives of his pupils, particularly one young man with political aspirations.
Kevin Kline plays the devoted teacher, depicted over 25 years as assistant headmaster at St. Benedict's.
It's perfect casting Kline brings to the role the intelligence and amiable honesty that have marked his better performances.
The story focuses on the arrival of Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch), the cocky young son of a senator who fights Hundert at every turn. Most of the film details the teacher's struggle to convince the kid of the importance of learning and of ethical behavior. And then, many years later, we see how the lesson took.
"The Emperor's Club" breaks little new ground and wraps up with an overly contrived finale. But the film is still worth seeing, if only for Kline's subtle, affecting portrayal.
It's a welcome portrait of a special teacher. Professor Hundert appreciates the way his lessons resound in the young men he's taught, but must also accept a hard fact: He can't reach them all.
Rated PG-13 for profanity, some sexual content.