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The History Boys (DVD)

The History Boys (DVD)

“History Boys” tells the story of an unmanageable class of bright, funny history students in pursuit of an undergraduate place at Oxford or Cambridge. Their headmaster enlists an astute novice (Stephen Campbell Moore) to coach them. Over the course of the next month or so, the relationships between the teachers and the students come into sharper focus, as the kids’ start to discover their true destinies… and all that jazz.


Richard Griffiths, Stephen Campbell Moore, Frances De La Tour, James Corden, Sacha Dhawan, Clive Merrison,

“History Boys” tells the story of an unmanageable class of bright, funny history students in pursuit of an undergraduate place at Oxford or Cambridge. Their headmaster enlists an astute novice (Stephen Campbell Moore) to coach them. Over the course of the next month or so, the relationships between the teachers and the students come into sharper focus, as the kids’ start to discover their true destinies… and all that jazz.

“The Emperors Club”. “Renaissance Man”. “Freedom Writers”. What do these films have in common? Well, besides the fact they’re all about anarchic educators who put the cool back into school, they all made about a hundred bucks even at the box office.

Nicholas Hytner’s “The History Boys”, even with the good reviews behind it, will probably be destined for pretty much the same fate.

Why? Well, isn’t it obvious? Not only has it been done before, but also nobody was much interested in seeing it the first time around. You can respray the shell of your car a million times over, but at the end of the day, it’s still going to be the same car. Same goes for the ‘teacher saves the kids’ movies – you can re-cast the leads; tweak the story and re-set it in a different period, but it’s still going to be the same movie – Marty McFly doesn’t have to take the Delorean back in time to tell you that.

But even without its similarities to earlier films, there’s a bigger flaw to this film: the fact that it still plays like the ‘play’ its based upon. Usually, when filmmakers adapt a play for the big screen – “The Producers” being the obvious exception – they tweak the bejesus out of the template to fit the new medium. Not here. Everything about the film resembles nothing more than a ‘video-recorded theatre play’ – the over rehearsed performances; the delivery of dialogue, and the confined surroundings. There’s just been no effort to tweak it for a new audience.

It’s witty at times. Has an awesome 80s soundtrack. Has the fantastic Richard Griffiths in a fantastic lead role. It ain’t enough though. It needed more… of everything. Maybe even a Coolio song.

In addition to a couple of featurettes, Writer Alan Bennett and director Nicholas Hynter provide an audio commentary. It’s informative and engaging enough, but they spend too much time trying to point out the differences between the play and the film –of which, I can tell you, there aren’t many.

Rating :
Reviewer : Clint Morris

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