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The Emperor's Club

Starring: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsh, Rob Morrow, Paul Dano, Joel Gretsch, and Jesse Eisenberg
Directed by: Michael Hoffman
Rated: PG-13

 

I am still in a friggin' sugar coma. I can't help it - I need salt! And loads of it. I stopped in at a fast food eatatorium on the way home and drank from their saltshaker innocently resting on the table. Why? Because this movie was 100% pure double-dose sugar sweet. From the very first frame we are spoon feed mucky sugar and syrup like dialog; and dear god that can get old fast.

Shame too because the cast is bubbling with some of our greatest young talents; Emile Hirsh, Jesse Eisenberg and wonderful Paul Dano. But even they couldn't pull the script out of the metaphorical first frost maple syrup their little thespian legs were firmly stuck in. As if the blatant emotional orchestrating script were not enough fluff-n-nutter we had to endure a repetitive soundtrack that haphazardly tried to keep us in line with were the cast was heading; next stop angered youth, or the dramatic (and expected) turn-around scene. Somebody give us credit for thought process - please.

We meet Mr. Hundert (Kevin Kline) as he is invited by a successful student of yesteryear to take part in a lunch in his honor. The student now a man, Sedgwick Bell (Joel Gretsch) was once a thorn in Mr. Hundert's side- causing mayhem and pranking the faculty at the swanky boys' school he attended. We all flash back to the year of Sedgwick the boy…

Teacher extraordinaire Mr. Hundert is happily forming minds at a private school for the upper crust St Benedict's. His life is solitary - accept for some retarded attempt at a romantic subplot with a married teacher (the music helped confirm this). They seem mutually smitten at least - it's off his established hoity toity moral character though and unnecessary for any rhyme or reason.

Script faux paus aside we go on. His new class is filled with eager young minds. Good kids who will later become the leaders, pillars and swindlers of our great land and most of them themselves children of leaders, pillars, and swindlers.

Enter one such pillar/ swindler's son, Sedgwick Bell (Emile Hirsch). Sed's the son of a senator and he's the poor little rich kid that gets ignored. The age old pressure pot of youth when the parent(s) expect junior to be the best at everything. Naturally Sedgwick's reaction is the also generic and forms itself as the rebel without a cause scenario. Sedgwick's a troublemaker and immediately disrupts Mr. Hundret's class. Snore.

Mr. Hundert feels if Sed is given a powerful hand of guidance into the ways of moral and principles he'll turn around and mature into a fine man. So, Mr. Hundret "assists" the young leader to discover himself testing his own moral and principle system. Uh-oh what's this? Mr. Hundert realizes young brat-boy has really learned nothing but better manipulation methods? He is slapped in the face with - real life.

So now all these years later (the film brings us back to the present) it seems Mr. Sedgwick bell has grown up and wishes to thank Mr. Hundert for putting up with his antics and deceits. I said it seems.

Oh please! Without even giving "spoilers" I think you all see where we are going. There's no surprises or revelations - except for Mr. Hundert who's living a Walter Mitty life anyway. Not that there's anything wrong with that but we go to films to be entertained…. this was so transparent it was mentally draining. What's the fun in that?

Kevin Kline's a great actor. He's pretty sweet on the retina too. But he wasn't to blame for this fiasco. My mother always says, "If you have nothing nice to say, blame the director." I do. Michael Hoffman allowed his characters to show Quintillian reactions and morbidly puppeted pantomime expressions. Shame on him.

Everyone involved is wasted. There's no surprises. The tension is non-existent. The outcome telegraphed. Even the few times we hoped the film would veer off out of head-on plot land we were sadly brought right back on the path frequented. None of the actors were allowed to spread their wings. This is just frosting and the inside is all air. See it if you really need to see something sappy. But if you're looking for something to sink your celluloid teeth into go see another film altogether.

Snack recommendation: Fluff-n-nutter, taffy and maple syrup over sugar cubes

 

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