Review

'Boychoir' a one-note take on youths' music competition

'Boychoir,' with Dustin Hoffman and Debra Winger, too often feels like a Hallmark movie

An illegitimate child of an alcoholic mother and an absentee father preoccupied with his preexisting family, prepubescent Stet (Garrett Wareing) routinely acts out and lands in either detention or the principal's office. Even so, Ms. Steel (Debra Winger) recognizes his musical gift and eagerly arranges for him to audition for the titular "Boychoir" with conductor Anton Carvelle (Dustin Hoffman).

Once enrolled at Carvelle's private boarding school, petulant Stet finally meets his match with his bratty, contemptuous, privileged classmates — like principal singer Devon (Joe West), who will deliberately sabotage à la "All About Eve" and "Showgirls" in jostling for solos. Newly humbled and made tolerable by comparison, Stet proceeds to triumph over this adversity.

If it sounds like a Hallmark movie, that's because it is. Nearly everything in this trite story plays out exactly as expected, save for complications of puberty. Despite having built his reputation as a musically inclined visionary with "Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould" and "The Red Violin," director François Girard unfortunately must work off Ben Ripley's screenplay instead of one of his own.

With "Whiplash" setting the new bar for depicting the rigorous discipline and competitiveness in a music academy, the stale, one-note narrative seen in "Boychoir" sounds even more out of tune.

"Boychoir."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.

Playing: At Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino.

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