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The Emperor's Club

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Emperor's Club

Starring: Kevin Kline, Rob Morrow
Director: Michael Hoffman
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: November 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Steven Culp, Roger Rees, Joel Gretsch, Patrick Dempsey, Embeth Davidtz, Edward Herrmann, Paul Franklin Dano, Harris Yulin

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

If you're looking for a movie that appeals to the whole family - from kids to grandparents - without sex, violence, special effects or lots of action - a film that celebrates what's good, rather than exploiting what's bad - this is for you.

According to the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, "A man's character is his fate," to which St. Benedict's Academy for Boys adds, "The end depends upon the beginning." Those are concepts that Classics professor William Hundert (Kevin Kline) has lived by. His story begins with a flashback to 1976, when the cocky, rebellious son of a U.S. Senator made a brash entrance into his class. Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch) is obnoxious, not unlike his father (Harris Yulin), but he's also bright - and challenging. Determined to inspire the lad, Mr. Hundert involves him in the school's annual Mr. Julius Caesar contest, which is staged as an intellectual tournament. Bell responds and excels, only to be discovered cheating in the final round. 25 years later, the now-grown Bell (Steven Culp) is a powerful corporate leader, yet he's never come to terms with his loss. So he stages an ironic Mr. Julius Caesar contest re-play at which the sage, now-retired Mr. Hundert will officiate. While Neil Tolkin's platitude-laden screenplay, based on "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin, and Michael Hoffman's direction never achieve the emotional involvement of "Dead Poets Society" or "Mr. Holland's Opus," Kevin Kline's brilliant, low-key performance propels the drama, along with a sharp, funny turn from Emile Hirsch. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Emperor's Club" is a philosophical, provocative 8, exploring the meaning of integrity and offering an insight which is particularly relevant to contemporary society.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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