Opens: Nov. 22
The Pitch: Bookish prep school classics teacher William Hundert (Kevin Kline) tries to improve the character of a spoiled, troubled student (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys' Emile Hirsch) whose problems may just stem from being named "Sedgewick."
Fashion statements: With the dress code's red blazers, school assemblies look like real estate conventions. The students' striped scarves suspiciously resemble the issue of Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Togas prove surprisingly common -- but as teaching tools, not Animal House party garb.
Flesh factor: A skinny-dipping scene with girls from a nearby school gets cut short before significant skin is exposed -- which is no surprise, since it strangely takes place in broad daylight and in full view of nuns.
Cliches: Academic movies require heroic students to have public triumphs that end with standing ovations and swelling soundtracks. Here it's the school's "Mr. Julius Caesar" contest, which includes a quiz like an all-Roman "Jeopardy!" game.
Continuity check: Most of the movie takes place in early/mid-1970s, but you can't tell that from the boys' dialogue, since it's so filled with modern slang such as, "I'm good," and, "Show us how it's done old-school."
Money shots: Hundert twice outmaneuvers brazen attempts to cheat. A boorishly rich pragmatist sneers at Hundert's academic ideals, only to see his bullying backfire. Hundert receives a touching tribute from his grown-up students.
Highbrow foreshadowing: Classroom references to Julius Caesar's assassination and Socrates' death sentence make us expect the worst from people the teacher trusts. Et tu, Sedgewick?
Better than the trailer? Yes. The ads make it look like it's cribbed from Dead Poet's Society. But the last act, dealing with Sedgewick and his classmates as adults, makes intriguing points about second chances and Hundert's tragic failures as an educator.
The Bottom Line: Much of The Emperor's Club gets a "C" for lackluster predictability. But its plot points about noblesse oblige and ne'er-do-well sons of respected political families make it an ideal academic drama for the Dubya administration.
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