Plot: What’s it about?
When Glenn Holland (Richard Dreyfuss) takes a job as a music teacher, he thinks it’s just a temporary position, to save up some cash, so he can return to his composing and performing, which is his first love. But after his wife informs him that she is pregnant, Holland decides to face his responsibilities, and do his best to cope with his new profession. This new perspective on his work seems to have a positive impact, as his skills as a teacher improve by the day. He manages to teach Driver’s Education and make it through the summer without issues, but when he returns, his skills will be put to the test, when is he charged to create a marching band, from scratch. Years pass, and Glenn finds himself with a very talented student, who seems to have more than a learning interest in him. But Glenn keeps himself in check, and refuses the young girl’s advances, although we can tell he wants to pursue the chance. As the years roll by, Glenn faces problems in school and at home, but he manages to work through them, even helping his deaf son appreciate music. But in 1995, Glenn faces a problem larger than any he has faced before, as the school’s budget limits have called for the musical department to be closed. Glenn has one chance to save his beloved program, which is a speech in front of the school board, but will he be able to convince them…?
While this storyline seems a little predictable and overdone, this film seems to rise above the rest of the movies like it, and rest atop them all. When it comes to teacher flicks, this one is the top of the pops, although the recent Music of the Heart comes close. What makes this movie so cool to me is that it covers the entire length of Holland’s career as a music teacher, and all the major events of his life during that time. We see his troubles at home, and how he tries to contain them at school. As the movie progresses, Glenn works in his spare time on his own musical work, his composition, but he never seems to have enough time for himself. His dream is to become part of music history, to write a piece that will stand the test of time, and leave his mark on the world, but between his work and home lives, he simply doesn’t have the time to fulfill that dream. This is a very powerful movie, and I recommend it to all readers, you should at least rent this wonderful movie.
The director of Mr. Holland’s Opus is Stephen Herek, who also directed such films as Holy Man, Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and The Mighty Ducks. Herek also helmed the cult classic horror flick, Critters. Herek uses some excellent framing in this film, and also implements some amazing camera movements. This film is carried by Richard Dreyfuss, who was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role here. The nomination was well deserved, as Dreyfuss (What About Bob?, American Graffiti) gives a powerful performance, one of his finest turns to date. And that’s saying something, since Dreyfuss has an extensive resume of excellent performances. But Dreyfuss is not alone in his excellence, as William H. Macy (Fargo, Mystery Men), Alicia Witt (Urban Legend, Dune), and Glenne Headly (Dick Tracy, Lonesome Dove) all provide top notch supporting performances. The supporting cast also includes Jay Thomas (C.H.U.D.), Anthony Natale (Jerry Maguire), Jean Louisa Kelly (Uncle Buck), and Olympia Dukakis (Picture Perfect, Steel Magnolias).
Video: How does it look?
Mr. Holland’s Opus is shown here in a non anamorphic widescreen transfer, which is framed at the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. To be honest, this transfer sucks ass, in a major way. The colors look distorted at times, but at least contrast and flesh tones are natural and consistent. The real problem with this image is the compression errors, which run rampant through the film. This transfer is riddled with edge enhancement, moire patterns, and shimmering, which can be quite distracting in some scenes. But this movie is so good, it’s worth suffering through this awful transfer to enjoy the flick.
Audio: How does it sound?
This disc has a Dolby 5.1 track, but the surrounds don’t spend much time in the game, usually resting on the bench, until the final scene. The music sounds decent, but doesn’t have the punch most soundtracks have. I will say that the final scene does sound excellent, but the whole soundtrack should have sounded that good. Dialogue is top notch here, no volume or clarity issues arise at all.
Supplements: What are the extras?
On this disc you’ll find a five minute behind the scenes production featurette.