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The Emperor's Club /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Kevin Kline, Emile Hirsch, Embeth Davidtz, Joel Gretsch, Rob Morrow 

Directed by: Michael Hoffman 

Produced by: Andrew Karsch, Marc Abraham, Sean Bailey, Andrew S Karsch 

Written by: Neil Tolkin 

Distributor: Universal Pictures


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     The Emperor’s Club is about making a difference, learning from history, and contributing to society. There is a plot, though its unnecessary to the film’s meaning. This beautiful and elegant tale could be told under any set of characters, with any actors, and any director. The specific way this film is made works, but could’ve been improved. It can be superficial at times, but we are still touched by the story and Kline and Hirsh’s amazing chemistry. Some of the material is worth four buckets, but the end result is a 3.

     William Hundert (Kevin Kline) is a passionate teacher at St. Benedictus School for Boys. The prestigious private school is located on the east coast, and houses the sons of wealthy men. They are all very intelligent and serious about their studies; the school is almost like a direct ticket to an Ivy League college. It isn’t the most up to date, in terms of technology, but everyone there is extremely hard working. The rules are strict and sharp, and all of the students follow them. There is not one goof-off that goes to it.

     This is a stringent institution for the finest young intellectuals. That is until something happens, and that something is named Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch). Sedgewick is the son of the senator (Harris Yulin), and is shipped off to this school because his father, really, doesn’t care about him. Sedgewick is a joker, and constantly makes fun Mr. Hundert right into his face. He scores poorly on tests and doesn’t try at all in academics. He shows his fellow classmates porno, and constantly disturbs them via little annoyances.

     Mr. Hundert thinks that Sedgewick is hopeless, but he miraculously starts to improve. All of a sudden, he begins to study, and actually enjoys it. Socrates, Plato, and Julius Caesar fill his mind with amazement. This was considered impossible by almost everyone who knew Sedgewick before the rapid change, but his companions were delightfully surprised when he expanded his tastes. At this point in the film, the once despised character now grows on us. Emile Hirsh is excellent, and plays Sedgewick well.

     Every year, St. Benedictus has the prestigious “Julius Ceasar” competition. In this competition, three of the boys who go to the school compete. To determine the three entrants, the students must take a series of quizzes, graded by Mr. Hundert. These quizzes earn them points. The contest is narrowed down to a top ten, and then to the three. Mr. Hundert wants Sedgewick to be one of the contestants so badly that he changes his “A-,” on the final test, leaving him in fourth place, and shy of the competition to an “A+,” that allows him to make it.

     The other two contestants are Deepak Metha, a very studious Indian boy, and Louis Massoudi, Sedgewick’s cocky friend. This is a glorious day for everyone, except Martin Blythe, the boy who ended up in fourth place, wrongfully, because of Sedgewick’s bumped up score. This is one mistake that Mr. Hundert will regret forever, because during the glorious “Caesar” competition Sedgewick makes a vile and unintelligent mistake. This mistake leaves Martin, and Sedgewick, short of what they really deserve. 

     The Emperor’s Club executes with style, but the second half does not have the wit and daringness of the first. This is not to say that it is a bad movie, but in a way, a missed opportunity. Kevin Kline and Emile Hirsch are fabulous as the strict, but passionate Mr. Hundert, and the disobeying Sedgewick. I did not question the film, but I did wonder what it could’ve been. The characters are well-written, but seem like they need more explanation. This is solid filmmaking, but not, by any means one of the year’s best.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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