The Emperor's Club

2002

The Emperor's Club

Critics Consensus

Though Kline is excellent in his portrayal of Hundert, the movie is too dull and sentimental to distinguish itself from other titles in its genre.

50%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 127

67%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 22,015
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Movie Info

A dedicated teacher learns some important lessons about himself years after he retired from the classroom in this drama. William Hundert (Kevin Kline) is an instructor at St. Benedict's School for Boys, an exclusive private academy on the East Coast where Hundert drills his charges on the moral lessons to be learned through the study of Greek and Roman philosophers. Hundert is fond of telling his students, "A man's character is his fate," and he strives to impress upon them the importance of the ordered and examined life. In 1976, however, Hundert finds himself with an especially challenging group of students -- party-minded Fred Masoudi (Jesse Eisenberg) , introverted Martin Blythe (Paul Dano), bright but mischievous Deepak Mehta (Rishi Mehta), and most notably, openly rebellious Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch). The son of a powerful politician, Bell pointedly runs against the current of Hundert's example, questioning the importance of the material, flouting the school's rules, talking out of turn in class, and devoting as much time to his interest in girls as in his studies. However, Hundert sees the possibility of great things in Bell, and encourages him to take part in the school's annual academic competition for the title of Mr. Julius Caesar. Hundert even goes so far as to bend the rules in scoring to favor Bell in the early stages of the contest, but his faith is betrayed when Bell is discovered cheating during the contest finals. Years later, Hundert is reunited with his students, where they learn the years have taught them all a great deal about their virtues and weaknesses. The Emperor's Club also features Harris Yulin, Rob Morrow, and Edward Herrmann.

Cast

Kevin Kline
as William Hundert
Emile Hirsch
as Sedgewick Bell
Embeth Davidtz
as Elizabeth
Rob Morrow
as James Ellerby
Paul Dano
as Martin Blythe
Edward Herrmann
as Headmaster Woodbridge
Jesse Eisenberg
as Louis Masoudi
Harris Yulin
as Sen. Bell
Rishi Mehta
as Deepak Mehta
Gabe Millman
as Robert Brewster
Chris Morales
as Eugene Field
Luca Bigini
as Copeland Gray
Michael Coppola
as Russell Hall
Sean Fredricks
as Mr. Harris
Steven Culp
as Older Martin Blythe
Patrick Dempsey
as Older Louis Masoudi
Joel Gretsch
as Older Sedgewick Bell
Melissa Brown
as Blonde Girl
Sophie Wise
as Brunette
Michelle Foody
as Real Redhead
Caitlin O'Heaney
as Mrs. Woodbridge
Charu R. Mehta
as Deepak's Mom
Pamela Wehner
as Senator Bell's Wife
Molly Regan
as Miss Peters
Roger Rees
as Mr. Castle
Helen Carey
as Miss Johnston
Matthew Douglas Grzeszak
as Well Wisher/Good Luck Boy
Charles McConnell
as Third Form Boy
Allan M. Care
as Other Student
Rahul Khanna
as Older Deepak Mehta
Jimmy Walsh
as Robert Bell
Elizabeth Hobgood
as Victoria Bell
Purva Bedi
as Anna Mehta
Deirdre Lorenz
as Dr. Kelly Ryan
Anthony Vincent Bova
as Older Robert Brewster
Mark J. Nichols
as Older Copeland Gray
George Miller (I)
as Older Eugene Field
David C. Hatch
as Older Deibel
Tom Bloom
as Maitre d'
Denis Gawley
as Sound Board Mixer
Nick Hagelin
as Martin Blythe, the 4th
Duane McLaughlin
as George Duncan
Jessica Brooks Grant
as Kathryn Scott
Dominique Devereau
as Tawana Carver
Ben Levin (II)
as Steven Wong
Jase Blankfort
as Alec Matthews
Charles Estes
as Howard Hollander
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Critic Reviews for The Emperor's Club

All Critics (127) | Top Critics (33) | Fresh (64) | Rotten (63)

Audience Reviews for The Emperor's Club

  • Jan 21, 2012
    Saw this at school and didn't like it at all. Good acting but the story is horrible and pointless
    David O Super Reviewer
  • Mar 03, 2011
    Sheds of Peter Weir's "Dead Poets Society" manifest in this fairly heartwarming film about the transcendent relationship between a teacher and his students, and how the first may undergo extreme anxiety and regret if ever he failed to inspire change to the latter. Kevin Kline, whom I knew most as the bumbling criminal Otto in "A Fish called Wanda", reversed all the characteristics of the role he became famous for and took on a mostly formalistic persona as the straightforward teacher, Mr. Hundert. Like all sentimental films yearning for some recall of memories to make a character evolve or eventually grow as a person, the film was told in a continuous flashback, looking at how his life as a Classics professor to able students could have been an ideal exercise of both his intellectual and emotional life; too bad he crossed paths with Sedgewick Bell(Emile Hirsch), a hard-headed, unprincipled youngster bent on breaking the conventions and rules of adequate education and the seemingly strong authority of Hundert himself. The true highlight of the film for me is the first 'Mr. Julius Caesar' contest, because there it lay the raw tension and anticipation of every questions and answers. Every slight pauses of the contestants. Every utterance of 'That is correct' by 'Mr. Hundert. Yes, for me, there should have never been a contrived rematch 25 years later for some kind of 'regaining an intellectual honor'(That's Sedgewick Bell right there). What is he trying to prove? That after all those years, he wanted to retell the tale of how he outsmarted his professor and the whole school by cheating into victory? Or was it just pure cinematic 'contrivance' to bring up another 'contrivance'? But then again, though I just can't fathom the logic of that particular 'rematch', I still quite liked the message of the whole film. If "Dead Poets Society" was about an educator's 'influence' to his students, "The Emperor's Club' is completely about the opposite. Although some teachers may say that they only teach because of the paycheck or because they just want to impart their knowledge to random minds, an unconscious inclination, I believe, always grows within them: that in some ways, they teach because they also want to touch 'lives' and in accord with human nature, also want theirs, although how experienced and filled up it may be, to be nurtured and embraced as well. For the majority of his life, Mr. Hundert was always haunted by the idea of how Sedgewick Bell got away with all of it. He questioned himself how he hasn't done anything about it. Here came the essence of the whole 'rematch' contrivance(which I learned to embrace as it is); it's not Mr. Hundert that failed Sedgewick Bell. He was given a chance to excel, he transgressed. It's himself. (This is a paragraph tailor-made for my reaction paper in Values Education regarding this film)"The Emperor's Club", above all, is an exploration of the realities of being a 'leader'. We live in an imperfect world inhabited by flawed individuals. Even Gandhi had his share of detractors. You just can't go in front of many people and collectively change their lives. What counts is whom you've changed, how, and if they are willing to. And in that case, Sedgewick Bell isn't. The Dathan to Moses. The Cassius to Julius Caesar. But beyond that are some 'Marc Antonys' that may just lend their trust, loyalty, and time for what you have to say. Early performances by young actors who has since made names for themselves by starring in equally great films by their own rights(Paul Dano in "There Will Be Blood", Emile Hirsch in "Into the Wild" and Jesse Eisenberg in the most recent "The Social Network").
    Ivan D Super Reviewer
  • May 31, 2010
    A film you swear you've seen before a hundred times, that is saved by a wonderful performance by Kevin Kline. This whistful looks into the world of academia is beyond cliche, from the oopsy moment of Professor Kline playing baseball with his students (and predicably smashes a deep fly ball that careens into the headmaster's car window - gee, where have I seen that before.... in just about every film of this genre). Still, there is enough witty dialog and a certain moral question that makes me give this film a watchable rating (if you've got nothing better to do on a weeknight). The main dramatic point of the film is a competition held each year called Mr. Julius Caesar, wherein Kline, the professor, gives the topic for a series of essays on Greco/Roman history. Kline then grades the essays, and comes up with a composite score. The top three then have a head to head competition in front of the rest of the school, taking turns answering increasingly difficult questions. The moral question comes as Kline has befriended the son of a Senator, and is pleased that he has finally reached the difficult student - to the point where he judges with his heart and allows the boy into the top three (where of course he attempts to cheat). I found this entire exercise to be distastful, but I've always found that making judgements on subjective writing to be thus. When the film later tries to make amends for Kline's lack of fairness, it just adds to the mediocracy; after all, he is supposed to be the hero, that pilar of moral judgement who is so loved by his former students. The points are made, driven in with a sledgehammer and the sentimentality so saccarin that my teeth hurt - derailing some of the more subtle points concerning honor. This film is certainly no "Good Will Hunting", "The Great Debators" or even the cheeky "History Boys" - it's certainly not original, and really hasn't much new or important to say, even though at times it says it quite well. For that, you can forgive some of its transparancies and transgressions, like the weak attempt at a love interest for Kline - which was totally superflous and unneccessary. In conclusion, one of the film's messages is that victory without morality, or contribution to society, is hollow and not what will be remembered over time - just as this film will fade away and be forgotten.
    paul s Super Reviewer
  • Aug 07, 2009
    KEVIN KLINE, EMILE HIRSCH, PAUL DANO, JESSE EISENBERG, EDWARD HERRMAN, EMBETH DAVIDTZ, PATRICK DEMPSEY William Hundert, St. Benedict's assistant headmaster, practices what he teaches. Striving to inspire his students to live rightly, he's the kind of impassioned Classics professor who believes the history of the Greeks and Romans is more than just a lesson about the past. He also believes the role of a teacher is not only to educate the pupil but to mold his character. But in the fall of 1972, Hundert finds his cloistered world of tradition and influence upended with the arrival of new freshmen Sedgewick Bell, the son of a West Virginia senator. Almost immediately, teacher and student become embroiled in a turbulent battle of wills with repercussions that would still be felt a quarter of a century later. Kevin Kline is amazing in this movie just like he is in all his roles. Had some good other actors that I like in this movie as well like Emile Hirsch, Jesse Eisenberg, Paul Dano, Patrick Dempsey, and others. Had the feel of Dead Poets Society, but definitely two very different films. The resemblance is the all boys school, and the brilliant teacher. But besides that, two different tales. One is more of the story of a teacher and the other of its students. I do prefer Dead Poets Society over this one though. Probably because I have been a student and never a teacher. Kevin Kline was great, but so was Emile Hirsch. He is one of today's greatest young actor's in my opinion. Love his work. Had quite a few of young good talents in this movie including the elder ones that made this movie so great. Thought the ending was surprising. Probably not a movie for all. Some will probably find it a bit boring. It was in some parts. But the acting is what pulls this movie through. Worth the watch for the performances if nothing else.

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