Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

The History Boys

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
4 out of 10
Extras Rating:
7 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: R

Starring:
Samuel Anderson as Crowther
James Corden as Timms
Stephen Campbell Moore as Irwin
Richard Griffiths as Hector
Frances de la Tour as Mrs. Lintott
Andrew Knott as Lockwood
Russell Tovey as Rudge
Jamie Parker as Scripps
Dominic Cooper as Dakin
Samuel Barnett as Posner
Sacha Dhawan as Akhtar
Clive Merrison as The Headmaster
Penelope Wilton as Mrs. Bibby
Adrian Scarborough as Wilkes
Georgia Taylor as Fiona

Special Features:
Audio Commentary with director Nicholas Hytner and writer Alan Bennett
History Boys Around the World: Tour Diaries
Pass it On: The History Boys on Screen

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Language
Spanish and French Subtitles
Running Time: 112 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following is from the DVD cover:

"From award-winning playwright Alan Bennett ('The Madness of King George') comes this delightfully witty comedy of eight boisterous-yet-talented schoolboys hoping to gain admittance to England's most prestigious universities. They're aided on their quest by two teachers, a shrewd young upstart and an inspiring old eccentric, whose opposing philosophies challenge the boys to confront the true meaning of education and the relative values of happiness and success.

Adapted from the original Tony Award winning play and starring the original Tony Award winning cast, 'The History Boys' is an engaging, thought-provoking, and wickedly funny look at history, the pursuit of knowledge, and the utter randomness of life."

"The History Boys" is rated R for language and sexual content.

The Movie:
I have to admit that "The History Boys" bored me out of my mind. I wanted to walk away from it over and over again. I ended up sticking with it, but it took me 3 days to finish it. So what was wrong with it?

First of all, it's about the angst of British teens trying to get into exclusive schools. If there's a more boring subject matter, I don't know what it is. They endlessly recite poetry, quote plays and movies, debate aimlessly about history, and sing songs. It was quite painful to watch.

My other problem with this film was the subplot of the teacher groping his students. I had just watched "Notes on a Scandal," so I had met my quota of teacher-on-student action for the day. The frustrating thing about "The History Boys" is how they dismiss the actions of the teacher. It's treated as charming and harmless by the boys being groped. It's dismissed as an eccentricity of the teacher by his fellow teachers. And when he's exposed for grabbing the balls of his students, they treat it as if some great injustice has been done towards the teacher. I found the whole thing pretty distasteful. To further that distaste, the film focuses on another new male teacher being seduced by on of the boys and fighting his temptation. In short, 50% of the teachers shown in this film are gay and all of them either molest their students or seriously contemplate it. No matter how philosophical or intelligent these characters are, they're hardly shining examples of the gay community.

Despite my general distaste for this film, I do recognize it has some strong points. The cast is pretty good and they all make a good transition from the stage to the screen. I also thought one particular scene, where one of the teacher contemplates the future careers of the boys, was artfully done. In kind of a dream sequence, each of the boys recites where they are in 10 years or so. Some are successful businessmen, some are teachers themselves, and some are even dead. It was a poignant moment.

The Extras:
There are only three bonus features on this DVD, but they make up for quantity with quality. First up is your standard Audio Commentary with director Nicholas Hytner and writer Alan Bennett. Unfortunately none of the cast joins in. Next up is "History Boys Around the World: Tour Diaries". The featurette follows the cast as they travel the world putting on their play in major cities. In this candid video shot by the boys you follow them as they visit Hong Kong, New Zealand, Sydney, and New York. Finally, there's "Pass It On: The History Boys on Screen". It's your standard 'making of' video where they focus on adapting the play to the big screen. There are interviews, behind the scenes footage, and more.

The Bottom Line:
Unless you're a fan of the original play or you enjoy British character dramas, I would recommend avoiding "The History Boys." This is a film that won't play well with most American audiences.

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