A strong sense of nostalgia pervades this remake of the obscure 1945 French film LA CAGE AUX ROSSIGNOLS (THE CAGE OF NIGHTINGALES): not just nostalgia for post-W.W.II France, but for the kind of movie in which supposedly incorrigible mop-tops are rehabilitated by a dedicated teacher (GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS) and his deep love of music (MR. HOLLAND'S OPUS). And surprisingly, there's a lot to enjoy, even as the film quickly surrenders to its sweetest impulses. Following a brief prologue, during which world-renowned conductor Pierre Morhange (Jacques Perrin) embarks on a sentimental journey to his native France to attend his mother's funeral, the action flashes back to 1949. Failed composer Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot) arrives at the school for wayward boys appropriately named Fond de L'Etang — "Rock Bottom" — where Morhange spent his unpromising youth. Hired to replace the departing supervisor, Mathieu's naïve hope and enthusiasm are quickly dampened by the realization that there's no room for either at the grim institution. Even more forbidding than the school's dank accommodations and sneering, unruly student body is sour-faced Principal Rachin (Francois Berleand), a petty martinet who runs his school according to a simple zero-tolerance philosophy summed up by his favorite catchphrase: "action — reaction." You do the crime, you do the time, tout de suite and sans merci. Undaunted, Mathieu is determined to find a better way of reaching these so-called bad boys. And after a group of them, including young Morhange (Jean-Baptiste Maunier), steal his satchel containing pages of musical notations and then later sing a teasing rhyme about Mathieu's bald head, the teacher gets an idea: Why not try to whip these out-of-control kids into a boys choir? A chorus will not only teach discipline and help the boys develop a talent they can take pride in, but enable Mathieu to further his dream of becoming a composer. Rachin is unconvinced but willing to allow this foolish idealist to give it a shot. If Mathieu's little "experiment" fails, however, he'll lose his job. First-time director Christophe Barratier has assembled an unforgettable gallery of faces both young and old, and prolific character actor Berleand plays the perfect villain — his Rachin is enough to make veteran meanie George MacCready look like an absolute pussycat.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: A strong sense of nostalgia pervades this remake of the obscure 1945 French film LA CAGE AUX ROSSIGNOLS (THE CAGE OF NIGHTINGALES): not just nostalgia for post-W.W.II France, but for the kind of movie in which supposedly incorrigible mop-tops are rehabilit… (more)