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Click for full sized poster

The Emperor's Club

Starring Kevin Kline; Emile Hirsch, Embeth Davidtz, Rob Morrow, Edward Herrmann
Screenplay by Neil Tolkin
Based on the short story "The Palace Thief" by Ethan Canin
Directed by Michael Hoffman
website: www.theemperorsclub.com

IN SHORT: A one note story that doesn't make the jump from the printed page. [Rated PG-13 for some sexual content. ]

Professor William Hundert (Kevin Kline) believes that part of his role as a teacher, and assistant headmaster at St. Benedict's School for Boys is to mold the character of the future leaders of industry and politics. The "Emperors" of the title are the phenomenally wealthy individuals who can send their children to this exclusive institution of learning. The setting is 1972, the female students are across the lake at St. Mary's, and Hundert is about to face his greatest challenge, Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch), the trouble making son of a US Senator from West Virginia. Can Hundert stop the young man's path down the road to corporate corruption or will he be able to mold a fine, upstanding citizen who will use his inherited power and prestige to better us all?

Forget about subplots or parallel stories, folks, that's about all there is to The Emperor's Club, an adaptation of a short story whose centerpiece -- at least in this film -- is a "Mr. Julius Caesar," a school competition best described as Trivial Pursuit, the ancient Greco-Roman History edition. Can you answer questions like "Into how many administrative regions did Augustus divide Rome?" (There's a test on the website, if you'd like to give it a try)

Films about student-teacher conflict can work. Films about contests and challenges can work but if you don't know the difference between Marcus Aurelius and Julius Caesar, there isn't enough meat on the bones of The Emperor's Club to hold your interest. This is the time of year when we see many one story films, all of which shine a light on a particular actor's performance. They are released at this time of year because this is when decisions about Best Of lists influence the nominations made by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts. The Oscar people.

The Emperor's Club fails just for that reason. While we are introduced to St. Benedict's Headmaster (Edward Herrmann) and a younger teacher (Rob Morrow), Neil Tolkin's script fails to introduce by name the one character who will play a major role in derailing Professor Hundert's hopes and dreams. There's a very minor romantic subplot featuring Embeth Davidtz but the overall project plays like a novel that's been gutted, rather than a short story that has been enhanced.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Emperor's Club, he would have paid . . .

$3.00

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.