The old formula of a lone teacher inspiring some unruly pupils to experience the better ways of the world or use their talents to the highest advantage is hardly an original concept, but when executed properly can often result in an uplifting and entertaining picture that achieves its goals, even if the bar wasn't set too high in the first place.
'The Chorus' recounts the tale of Clement Mathieu, a French music teacher who puts together a choir at a local school for disobedient boys. He encounters a fair amount of criticism in exercising his dream, but eventually it pays off; these boys simultaneously learn the harmony of classical music and that their teachers - and the outside world - aren't that much against the possibility of succeeding in life.
Despite being deeply conventional, director Christophe Barratier opts for a bold and mature approach to the story. Sweeping camera movements and use of the choir's angelic vocal chords for background music add a sophisticated touch to otherwise ordinary scenes, and the opening and closing flash-forward segments don't linger on too much sentimentality.
It is unfortunate, however, to learn that other than the incredibly gifted Jean-Baptiste Maunier, all of the singing was completed by a professional choir. It's not only cheating the audience but there would be nothing overtly flawed about the picture if these boys could only sing really well; mind-blowing brilliance isn't necessary to capture the film's true emotional core.
For 'The Chorus' is a charming and spirited film. Gerard Jugnot delivers a fine performance as Mathieu, exuding a inherent goodness about him that ensures not a member of the audience will have cause for dislike, and while the narrative is formulaic and clichéd, it is very nearly the best of its kind. The atmosphere is strong, and full of soul.
Okay so the sudden transformation of a bunch of hard-to-handle school-kids is a tad unlikely, not to mention the temporary taming of a tyrannous principle with some brutish policies (scenes with him kick-starting a friendly ball game and throwing paper aeroplanes round his office were far too convoluted and unnatural), but 'The Chorus' works by embracing the conventional rather than trying too hard to work around it. The tale ends exceptionally rosy, but a little triumphant anecdote now and then isn't so hard to swallow, especially one that makes you feel as elated as this.