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The Emperor's Club (2002), PG-13
Analysis Date: November 30, 2002
CAP Score: 62
CAP Influence Density: 0.69
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THE EMPEROR'S CLUB (PG-13) -- Honor, respect and discipline are positive motives rather than obstacles. But...
Production: Beacon Communications LLC, Fine Line Features, Liveplanet
Distribution: MCA/Universal Pictures
Director(s): Michael Hoffman
Producer(s): Marc Abraham, Sean Bailey, Armyan Bernstein, Thomas A. Bliss, Lisa Bruce, Andrew S. Karsch, Sidney Kimmel, Cooper Layne, Eric Newman, Michael O'Neill
Written by/Screenplay: Ethan Canin (short story "The Palace Thief"), Neil Tolkin (screenplay)
Cinematography/Camera: Lajos Koltai
Music: James Newton Howard
Film Editing: Harvey Rosenstock
Casting: Sheila Jaffe, Georgianne Walken
Production Design: Patrizia von Brandenstein
Art Direction: Dennis Bradford
I though for sure this would be mathematically equivalent to a PG in the comparative baseline database, but I was wrong. With a final score of 62, it is well founded in the PG-13 scoring range (67 to 55 out of 100) as it can be. I guess that just shows to go you how even I can be fooled by a righteous-looking picture saturated with noble ethics. And it makes me thankful for the objectivity of the CAP analysis model.
In terms of ethical balance and presence, this movie is not afraid to touch the poisonous questions. Nor does it force answers. Nor does it give all the answers. And one cannot check one's brain at the door and expect to be entertained for 105 minutes. Integrity is a leading presence. Honor, respect and discipline are positive motives rather than obstacles as in much popular entertainment. Defiance and other human failings are not swept under the rug. Honest and life-changing regrets are explored. Deceit and dishonesty are punished without punishment in a truly ingenious way using the most devastating and powerful instrument - a man's son.
St. Benedict's Academy for Boys is the professional home of Professor William Hundert (Kevin Kline). Hundert is loved by all and is hailed as the best teacher St. Benedict's has ever had. He possesses the skills of being able to shape and nurture obedience and honor and still control rebellion and defiance using the offender's own ploys and tactics. His passion for teaching with integrity and excellence is unparalleled in the history of St. Benedict's.
The story opens as Mr. Hundert is welcomed by a group of St. Benedict's alumni, all ready to reenact an encounter of dazzling intellect and mental prowess given to the hosts by Mr. Hundert so long ago. But we are almost immediately taken into the past.
Twenty-five years ago, in 1976, Mr. Hundert receives a new class of boys to teach the Roman classics of Caesar and other Roman rulers and the history of Rome. Each boy seems well suited to honoring the rigorous and disciplined structure and performance demanded and nurtured by Mr. Hundert ... each boy except one, Mr. Sedgewick Bell (Emile Hirsch), a bright and active young lad and son of grim and opportunistic Senator Bell (Harris Yulin). Sedgewick had brought his father to class with him, figuratively.
Sedgewick was one of they who constantly defied order and discipline. His footlocker was crammed with items not permitted to youth: cigarettes, booze, porn magazines and other paraphernalia of restricted nature. Sedgewick was always the one with the smart mouth toward the authority of Mr.Hundert. Always disrespectful of others. Always looking to lead others into defying the rules and any authority: the typical "bad attitude" [Rom. 5:19a]. Sedgewick was the kind of boy who would feel okay with calling his father a foul name as long as there was an audience to hear it [Matt. 15:4]. But little did Sedgewick know that Mr. Hundert was ready for him [Rom. 5:19b].
And make righteous of all did he, the Mr. Hundert. All except one. How he did I will leave up to you to discover if you decide the degree of ignominy we reveal in this film is acceptable for your family. I will, however, share with you the "Mr. Julius Caesar" contest held every year. The one who can answer the most questions about Roman history before an assembly of the student body and faculty will win the coveted and noble badge of being Mr. Julius Caesar.
And after the concerted efforts of Mr. Hundert and Sedgewick's father, Sedgewick indeed started to make the grade to be in the running for the contest. Come time for the finals which determine the only three contestants, four appear to have made the grade, including Sedgewick. Now comes a bitter dissonance for Mr. Hundert-dissonance between his desire for Sedgewick to earn a reward for hard work and his own integrity.
Sedgewick had grown up considerably in a few months and had applied himself enough to a-l-m-o-s-t make the grade for the Mr. Julius Caesar contest. Mr. Hundert, thinking his next decision might fortify Sedgewick's amazing transformation of attitude and academic prowess, decided to reevaluate again Sedgewick's final exam results. Why? Because three others had made the grade to compete in the Mr. Julius Caesar contest: Deepak Mehta (Rishi Mehta), Martin Blythe (Paul Franklin Dano) and James Ellerby (Rob Morrow) who form the core of the show with Kline and Hirsch. Sedgewick is a hair's breadth below the grade because of an A- instead of an A+. But if Sedgewick could be given the honor of competing, maybe it would ...?
Freckled in all this is a close relationship between Mr. Hundert and Elizabeth (Embeth Davidtz), the wife of an associate. Indeed, Elizabeth was Mr. Hundert's only female interest. His day was completely absorbed by his zeal for teaching and the Roman classics. Though the relationship between Mr. Hundert and Elizabeth was not physical, the relationship was adulterous. And as far as the sin of adultery is concerned, it does not have to be physical to be sinful [Matt. 5:28].
That is all the spoilers I will reveal. What follows in the movie and in the myriad of minute details that built the above scenario are indeed moving and sobering. The "finale" is a dazzling presentation of justice of which few would think. I itch to tell you because I am so impressed with the caliber of this film, when fed through a filter to eliminate cursing and God's name plus looking away just before the porn mags show up, might very well be used as a teaching tool by parents, but I'll bite my tongue and stop here.
But beware, there are "PG-13" ignominies within this work of art. God's name in vain is used, though without the four letter expletive, 19 times [Deut. 5:11]. There is picture nudity and adolescent discussion of the pictures plus one of the adolescents kissing a porn picture. A group of teens start to strip. An adulterous relationship is obvious. [Gal. 5:19] An adolescent is noted smoking. There is also defense of cheating and lying to get what is wanted with "Why not" when confronted. The largest contributor to the loss of points is the adolescent arrogance toward rightful authority [Prov. 8:13, Isa. 13:11, 1 Sam. 15:23].
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***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
Offense to God (O)(2):
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|NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure or example from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth.|
|"There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our nearly seven years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.|