Movie Reviews: The History Boys

Expectations must certainly have been high for The History Boys, based on the Allan Bennett play that won six Tony awards this year. (The film has the same director, Nicholas Hytner, and cast, headed by Richard Griffiths, who won the Tony for best actor.) Some critics are clearly not disappointed with the changeover. The filmmakers, John Coulbourn writes in the Toronto Sun, "have transformed the award-winning play into an immensely likable, entertaining and -- oh, dear -- often thought-provoking movie." His assessment is not shared by fellow Canadian critic Peter Howell, who writes in the Toronto Star, "The History Boys flunks its most crucial test: the need to properly adapt a stage play to the screen medium." Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News observes that the play was applauded for its "sharp repartee," which sounds unnatural on the screen. "You won't find a better example of the strength of a play becoming the weakness of a movie than ... The History Boys," he writes. Likewise Claudia Puig writes in USA Today, "You emerge from the movie wishing you'd seen the Tony-winning play, thinking that the stage is the best medium for this thoughtful classroom drama." On the other hand, Richard Shickel in Time magazine takes an opposite view, calling the movie "an improvement on the original. It has a flow and an intimacy that the often awkward theatrical version lacked." And Stephen Holden in the New York Times also heaps praise on the film, remarking, "The film retains the play's quicksilver pace along with an airiness and cheek that vaguely recall the '60s films of Richard Lester."



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