Eye For Film >> Movies >> School Ties (1992) Film Review
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.
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