Boychoir parents guide

Boychoir Parent Review

If you can deal with a predictable plot, then you can sit back and enjoy the feel-good show the same way you would savor the performance of a familiar melody.

Overall B+

It seems an odd decision -- to send a troubled youngster (Garrett Wareing) to an elite boy's choir school. But the parentless 11-year-old appears to have some talent, and if Master Carvelle (Dustin Hoffman) can teach him how to tame his passion, he might just give the boy the chance of a better future.

Violence C+
Sexual Content A-
Profanity B
Substance Use B+

Boychoir is rated Not Rated

Movie Review

I love the unique sound of choirboys, with their haunting blend of angelic male voices. If you like them too, then you are sure to thrill to the music of Boychoir, although you may have to overlook the movie’s sentimental storyline.

Stet (Garrett Wareing) is what you would call a disadvantaged child. Living in a poor neighborhood in Odessa, Texas, with his alcoholic, single mom (Erica Piccininni), the eleven-year-old is given to outbursts of anger and vandalism. However, a concerned school principal (Debra Winger) is trying to give the troubled youngster the best shot possible at a better future. Believing the wayward pupil has talent, Ms. Steel arranges for the touring National Boy’s Choir to stop and perform at their humble school, with the hope Stet can audition before the prestigious choir leader, Master Carvelle (Dustin Hoffman).

Although the rebellious kid runs away from her best efforts, fate steps in to give him a second chance. This backhanded blessing occurs because of the death of Stet’s mother. (The accident that claims her life is somewhat shockingly depicted with a corpse tangled in the wreckage of a car.) This unexpected event forces the boy’s estranged dad (Josh Lucas) to make an appearance. Desiring to keep the existence of his illegitimate son a secret from his real family, the absentee father quickly agrees to the suggestion of sending Stet to the Eastern United States to live at the esteemed choir’s boarding school. And the private institution reluctantly accepts the untrained child, thanks to the generous donation that accompanies his application.

Review continues after the break...

At first Stet is less than enthusiastic about this opportunity, failing to see how amazing it really is. His teachers are also hesitant about him, not recognizing the potential that lies within the sullen student. He doesn’t fit in well either with the privileged over-achievers from wealthy homes who surround him. Their differences lead to some minor bullying, brief fistfights, a few mild profanities and moments of spiteful retaliation. Despite all that, the tantalizing tones produced by his fellow singers begin to awaken something magical in the Stet’s lost soul.

Probably the biggest problem with this predictable plot is that it expects you to believe Stet can catch up to his classmates’ knowledge of musical theory in just a few weeks—which is akin to trying to tutoring someone with the math skills of a kindergarten kid to learn calculus. However, if you can check such attention to reality at the box office door, then you can sit back and enjoy the feel-good show in much the same way as you would savor the performance of a familiar melody anticipating all the high and low notes you know will be part of the tune.

Directed by François Girard. Starring Josh Lucas, Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Garrett Wareing. Running time: 103 minutes. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Boychoir here.

Boychoir Parents Guide

Boychoir is opening in limited theaters.

Talk about the movie with your family…

The character of Stet is portrayed in this movie as having unusual talent. Yet he lacks any training. Do you think a natural ability can make up for a lack of learning? Does he need both to be as good as his classmates? How long do you think it would really take to learn the depicted level of musical theory and history? What physical training is also needed to be a great vocalist?

How are the teachers and school administrator’s ethics tried when Stet’s dad offers to make a large donation of money to the institution if they will accept his son? Are there times when it is okay to overlook rules and standards? Could they have helped the boy any other way, without compromising their integrity?

The time frame for a boy to sing in a choir (like the one shown here) is fairly short, because as soon as puberty begins to change a young man’s voice, he is no longer able to sing the high musical parts. Does it seem worth it to spend all the effort required to achieve this goal if the performance window is so small? What things can a former choir member take with them when they can no longer be part of the group? What opportunities do these older teens have after they leave the choir?

Learn more about the history of boy choirs.