The History Boys | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The History Boys

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Adapted by Alan Bennett from his celebrated play, this British drama about a boys' boarding school in the early 80s draws on the sentimental tradition of Goodbye, Mr. Chips but also offers a sharp critique of the means and measures of education. Richard Griffiths stars as a lovable old English teacher who endorses A.E. Housman's principle that "all knowledge is precious whether or not it serves the slightest human use." His philosophy is challenged after eight young history scholars score high enough on their exams to be considered for Oxford or Cambridge and the headmaster hires a clever young instructor (Stephen Campbell Moore) to school them in the rhetorical smoke and mirrors that impresses college examiners. Shot in five weeks with the original West End cast, this is rather drab cinematically, but it bursts with ideas, and the fresh young actors playing the boys are exceedingly quick and lively. R, 109 min. Reviewed this week in Section 1. a Century 12 and CineArts 6, Landmark's Century Centre.

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