I don’t think you have to love highbrow or old church music to enjoy this film, but it probably helps. Despite the fine acting and filming, it’s the music above all else that keeps you spellbound from start to finish. Young Garrett Wareing does an amazing job of acting and has, as do all the other young boys in this movie who are actual students at American Boychoir School of Princeton, N.J., an angelic voice. Litton-Lodal Music Director of the school, Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, is also music director for the movie.
Garrett plays a troubled boy who, at home, must be the adult, caring for his alcoholic mother who doesn’t always make it to work, while at school, Stet acts out — being disruptive, stealing, and getting into fights. He has an ally in his school principal (played by Debra Winger), Ms. Steel, who has arranged for the National Boychoir to perform at her school in order to have Stet audition for a place at the school. Angry and full of feelings of inadequacy, Stet runs off without singing for choir maestro, Carvelle (played by Dustin Hoffman), and the opportunity is seemingly lost. However, when Stet’s mother is killed in a car crash, and his estranged father (played by Josh Lucas) is located, the possibility reasserts itself. With a family of his own, Gerard wants to keep the boy a secret and willingly takes Stet to the boychoir boarding school in New Jersey, and when Stet is refused admission by Carvelle, writes a substantial cheque to the school which is accepted by the headmistress, played by Kathy Bates. (Rather ironic, since on April 10th of this year, the school filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.)
Of course, this isn’t the end of Seth’s struggles because he’s way behind in theory and studies, and not everyone is welcoming him with open arms. Carvelle is an aloof and demanding presence who feels Stet’s behaviour will keep him from contributing to the school in a positive way. His roommate thinks he’s too good for him and won’t let him touch his stereo and plays pranks on him. But throughout all the difficulties, Stet has one or two allies who teach him, befriend him, and recognize his potential.
While the drama may be somewhat predictable, it is the acting and the incredibly beautiful music that flows through the film, along with Stet’s determination to succeed, that make the movie what it is: the kind of movie we from time to time think they don’t make any more, the kind you can take the whole family to without qualms. Much of the music I didn’t recognize, but I loved it and, shortly after arriving home, downloaded the soundtrack to add to my ipod. Most people will recognize the music from Handel’s Messiah, but everyone can appreciate the beauty of these young male voices in acoustically amazing churches, chapels, and concert halls as they practise and perform. Do yourself a favour and watch the trailer, then go see the movie. * * * * *