Click here four and a half stars

A fight
for honor
and morality
Kevin Kline

"The Emperor's Club"

Reviewed by Carlos deVillalvilla

(Click on the images to see larger versions and credits.)

In the end, the measure of a person is in their actions, not just their ideals. It's a fine thing to have lofty moral values, but another to live by them. The difference between doing what's right and doing what's right for yourself can be a very hard line indeed.

Professor William Hundert (Kevin Kline) lives an ordered existence. Assistant headmaster and history teacher at the exclusive St. Benedict's School for Boys. Passionate not only about teaching Greek and Roman civilization, but also about making the right choices for the greater good, Hundert is beloved amongst his students and respected among his peers.

Rishi Mehta, Emile Hirsch, Jesse Eisenberg, Paul DanoInto this existence comes Sedgewick Bell (Emile ''The Dangerous Life of Altar Boys'' Hirsch), the brash son of a powerful U.S. Senator. Bell has little respect for anything, least of all himself. At first irritated by the constant challenges to his authority, Hundert grows to see the potential for excellence in Bell. Hundert attempts to inspire the young man, urging him to take part in a prestigious academic competition. It is here where his most cherished ideals are put to the test, both by the student and the teacher.

Based on the excllent novella ''The Palace Thief'' by Ethan Canin,''The Emperor's Club'' is all the more timely for the recent spectacular examples of the lack of ethical behavior in business, government, Wall Street and academia. Kline's performance as Hundert is memorable, although it borrows a bit from the ''Mr. Chips''/''Dead Poets Society'' line of teachers.

Hundert believes very deeply in his principals, but abandons them for what he thinks is the greater good of another person. However, when that greater good is betrayed, Hundert is challenged more than ever to keep his belief system intact. He does so in a marvelously human manner, one to which all of us can relate. Hundert is no saint, but he is a good man, better than most, in fact, but fallible.

I was blessed by having a father who had a very highly developed moral sense. He used to tell me that the harder road was usually the right one. It has been a principal that has guided me through some sticky situations; in that sense, I can identify with Hundert because of my father's example. Everyone should be lucky enough to have examples such as these in our lives. Lacking them, one can use this movie as inspiration to take the moral high ground. If seeing a movie can cause us to look in the mirror, then watching that movie is a worthwhile endeavor, and ''The Emperor's Club"'' is that, and more.

AT HOME OR AT A THEATER?
See it on a small screen; if you have teenagers in the house, make sure they watch it and discuss it with you afterwards.
DVD:


See cast, credit and other details about "The Emperor's Club" at Internet Movie Data Base.