School Ties

School Ties

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

School Ties is one of those movies that nobody knows about but features lots of before-they-were-famous faces. "Oh look! A young, fresh-faced Matt Damon." "Hold on, that’s Chris O’Donnell too". "Wait, wait, there’s Ben Affleck as well!". Thankfully though, Robert Mandel’s Close-minded intolerance tale is more than just a selection of up-and-comers.

It’s the 1950s and small-town working-class Jewish boy David Greene (Brendan Fraser) has been recruited by an elite New England prep-school because of his football abilities. Though fitting in smoothly at first, once it’s revealed that David is a Jew, virtually all his rich ‘friends’ turn their backs on him.

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Things get off to a rather slow start and there’s a too-schmaltzy Disney-style score, plus, the first half all feels a bit familiar - kid from wrong side of the tracks ingratiates himself at snobby school, steals rival’s quarterback position and girl, there’s a school dance, then the academic-orientated finale. However, once David’s religion is revealed, the prep school drama turns into fascinating study of ignorant bigotry, while the 12 Angry Men-reminiscent finish (someone cheats at a test, the group must decide who did it) is gripping stuff.

There’s more going on than just prejudice, as the well-worn themes of friendship and loyalty are given air to breathe. As noted, there’s also familiar faces everywhere you look; Matt Damon as the said rival, Chris O’Donnell as the sympathetic roommate, Cole Hauser (a well-known TV face from everything from ER to Chase) as the initially-racist group member and Ben Affleck in a minor role dancing with his T-shirt off. As for Brendan Frasier, he holds it all together well, showing enough range that you feel sad he hasn’t managed to carve a notable career outside the Mummy franchise.

Generally unknown, but worth seeing for its host of young, about-to-be-hot stars and a crackling second-half.

Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2011
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School Ties packshot
A Jewish schoolboy finds his religion is a problem at an elitist schoolboy.
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Director: Robert Mandel

Writer: Dick Wolf, Darryl Ponicsan

Starring: Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon, Chris O'Donnell, Randall Batinkoff, Andrew Lowery, Cole Hauser, Ben Affleck, Anthony Rapp, Amy Locane, Peter Donat, Zeljko Ivanek, Kevin Tighe, Michael Higgins, Ed Lauter, Peter McRobbie

Year: 1992

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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