Picks and Pans Review: Mr. Holland's Opus
This is a music lover's hell, and I don't just mean the excruciating scene where Dreyfuss—as a frustrated composer who, to support himself, takes a job teaching Bach to bored high school students—tunelessly squawks John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" to his son. What we have here is one tangled hybrid of Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Dangerous Minds, Fame and any number of pedophiliac song-and-dance flicks.
And that's not to mention a screenplay heavy-handed enough to send Dreyfuss's piano dismally out of tune. Not only does Dukakis, the fusty principal, inevitably appoint the insulted Dreyfuss director of the marching band, but when music fanatic Dreyfuss and his wife, Headly, have a child, wouldn't you know it: The boy is deaf.
Thomas, as a hail-fellow football coach thankfully gives the film some life. Dreyfuss, less abrasive than usual, comes off like a combination of Freud and Sousa, with some Superman thrown in. When not wallowing in his midlife infatuation with his star senior, the old boy is fitfully composing a ponderous symphony, fighting budget cuts and reconciling with his bratty son. All this allows for a succession of tear-jerking climaxes heavier on sentiment than sense. (PG)