A routine aerial shot swoops down over the grounds of an architecturally classic boarding school while a buoyant, sanguine score bleats with insistently lyrical French horns in the opening moments of "The Emperor's Club." And that's all most moviegoers will need to divine everything there is to know about the picture's musty, fond-memory-styled milieu of plucky, Puckish schoolboys and the dedicated, kindly educator who inspires them.

It's a movie that seems motivated more by a desire to match mortarboards with "Dead Poets Society" and "Good Will Hunting" than by its own story. It's a movie of highly telegraphed archetypes slogging their way through clich├ęs (the off-limits girls' school is just across the lake) and only-in-the-movies moments, like the climactic scholarly trivia contest in which the three smartest boys in school don togas and answer questions on stage about the minutiae of Roman history.

These settings, these characters and this narrative arc -- about a contentious teacher-student relationship -- are so familiar that while the movie is not inept or boring, it never feels real enough to inspire much more than a shrug in response.

Continue reading: The Emperor's Club Review