Richard Dreyfuss gives a stirring performance in director Stephen Herek's sentimental tribute to a music teacher's career. Dreyfuss plays an aspiring composer of symphonies whose ambition fades as his life is increasingly taken over by his job has a high school music teacher. Although it ignores the fact that nearly all serious (read classical) composers earn their living as teachers, the film is a rare entry in a once flourishing genre: the tribute to a life of selfless dedication. A specialty of director John Ford, the genre seems to have dried up in recent decades as narcissism has taken center stage in American life. Like most such films it's awash in sentimentality, but here the schmaltz is balanced by Dreyfuss' natural irascibility and comic energy. The intensity of his histrionics and eventual commitment to awakening his students' interest to the world of music make his effectiveness credible, though the scenes manifesting their growth lean toward cliché. With heavy-handed irony, the script also gives the teacher a deaf son, and the subplot concerning his supposed indifference to his family is too undeveloped to have much weight. Yet, Olympia Dukakis as the sympathetic school principal and W.H. Macy as one of Dreyfuss' hissable colleagues join the star in bringing life to a familiar tale.
by Michael Costello review