starring Gérard Jugnot, François Berléand, Kad Merad, Jean-Paul Bonnaire
screenplay by Philippe Lopes-Curval, Christophe Barratier
directed by Christophe Barratier
by Walter Chaw The one good thing about Christophe Barratier's unbelievably inane, saccharine, and derivative The Chorus (Les Choristes) is that it offers the much put-upon American public a little comfort in the knowledge that the French mainstream (which made this film its top-grossing title of last year) has just as unquenchable a sweet tooth for pap. Useless to discuss at length, The Chorus is essentially another in a line of literally dozens of films in which an inspirational teacher changes the lives of a group of troubled/lower-class/underestimated children through will, kindness, and a rogue spark of crinkly-eyed genius that irks to no end the evil dean/headmaster/school board/community. It's not as bad as Filipino contribution Little Voices, nor is it as good as, say, Goodbye Mr. Chips--locating it somewhere in the neighbourhood of a disaster like Mr. Holland's Opus or the endlessly weird Wes Craven (!) picture Music of the Heart. Taken on its own merits, pretending that you've never seen Dead Poets Society, Stand and Deliver, The Blackboard Jungle, Conrack, Mona Lisa Smile, Dangerous Minds, Renaissance Man, Coach Carter, and so on and so on, The Chorus is still unspeakably maudlin and presented in so straightforward a fashion that if you did the right thing and asked for your money back after five minutes, you could reasonably fake having seen it to a circle of friends, who will admire your stamina in having sat through the whole benighted thing.