The Chorus (Christophe Barratier). 95 minutes. Opens Friday (January 28). Subtitled. For venues and times, see Movie listings. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The Chorus is a remake of the 1945 Academy Award-nominated film La Cage Aux Rossignols; director Christophe Barratier would probably be horrified to realize that contemporary audiences will find more than a few similarities with Whoopi Goldberg's crass commercial pic Sister Act 2.
Both feature a group of kids with attitude to spare in a school that's given up (the aptly named Fond de l'Etang, which means "Rock Bottom"), both find unexpected hope in the formation of a choir, and both contain the sickeningly sweet archetype of the unlikely teacher who changes the kids' lives for the better.
So what sets Barratier's film - just nominated for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Song Oscars - apart?
Well, for one thing, compared to rapping wiggers and diva Lauren Hill, it's a lot easier to feel sorry for adorable orphans and impoverished boys whose social-climbing headmaster couldn't give a damn. Not to mention, here's a choir that can actually sing, especially young Jean-Baptiste Maunier , whose pout is nearly as powerful as his voice.
The real talent, though, and the real saving grace in an otherwise formulaic film, is Gérard Jugnot , who infuses bald sad sack Clément Mathieu with a quiet strength and inner beauty that make him a sympathetic role model and the kind of teacher we all wish we'd had.