The Emperor's Club review

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Taken from the same textbook as the rousing Dead Poets Society and the lousy Mr Holland's Opus, Michael Hoffman's sentimental fable adheres to the now-standard curriculum: avuncular teacher (Kevin Kline) teaching an arcane topic (Ancient History) in a rarefied setting (posh boys' school).

Based on a story by Ethan Canin, The Emperor's Club begins with Kline's ageing classics master recalling an earlier battle of wills with a cocky pupil (Emile Hirsch). Said pupil disproved the adage that cheats never prosper by blagging his way to the final of Kline's Weakest Link-style classics quiz, `Mr Julius Caesar'. Twenty-five years on, he gets a chance to redeem himself by restaging the event and persuading Kline to be quizmaster one more time.

Perhaps realising this is somewhat stuffy subject matter, Hoffman also gives Kline an unrequited love interest (Embeth Davidtz) to try and spice things up. He needn't have bothered: nothing can dispel the air of fusty irrelevance that hovers over the film like chalk dust off a blackboard.


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