“The Chorus” is a movie you have seen many times before. Cute, well-acted and utterly predictable, Christophe Barratier's feature debut delivers just what the advertising promises: a musician who has given up on fame takes a job as supervisor at a school for hard cases, and when he teaches the boys how to sing, they mellow out and begin to love him dearly.
Fond d'Etang, the name of the school run with iron fist by the stern Rachin (Francois Berleand), translates as "Rock Bottom,” but round-faced Clement (Gerard Jugnot) holds on to his good cheer. His cuddly exterior betrays a warm intelligence--apparently he knows that he is in the kind of movie where a little art will certainly tame the teenage beasts, and so he sorts the boys by their voices and starts a choir.
All the necessary types are present in the classroom: the cute small kid, the brazen thieves and hormone-addled thugs, and of course the surprisingly talented teacher's pet (Jean-Baptiste Maunier), from whose adult perspective the story is told. In the opening scene, we learn that he ends up in New York City as one of the "greatest conductors in the world"--just to make sure that everybody knows right away that this story has a happy end.
Forgive me if I sound cynical. "The Chorus" is told with skill and charm, and if you like to hear golden teenage sopranos, you will love the music. If you're in the mood to be uplifted in all the usual heartwarming ways--"Mr. Holland's Opus," "Dead Poets' Society," "Billy Elliot" and scores of similar films come to mind--"The Chorus" will not disappoint you. Disappointing, however, is that Barratier didn't pick a fresher subject for his first film, disappointing, also, that out of all the unique and innovative films that came out of France last year, this formulaic and obvious movie was picked to represent the country at the Academy Awards.