You can find this flick in the Scent of a Woman aisle, next to all the other “Young man taught life lessons by crippled mentor, but it looks as if the crippled mentor could learn a lesson or two as well” films. Except, this time, nobody says “Hoo-wa!” but rather, “Punch the keys!”
Al Pacino is played by Sean Connery, who plays William Forrester, a crotchety, haunted J.D. Salingeresque recluse who befriends a gentle student. His charge is a fresh-faced underclass kid (Rob Brown) who is attending a tony NY private school.
In both films, the nemesis is a priggish, empty-suit of an educator who does his dastardly deeds mainly out of insecurity and spite. The bad guy here (F. Murray Abraham) is actually really, really bad. Not only does he try to railroad our hero by accusing him of plagiarism (Brown is writing under the tutelage of Connery), he actually whispers to Brown, “Don’t ever embarrass me in front of my class again.”
In Scent of a Woman, the day is saved by the appearance of Pacino at the honors trial of poor, fresh-faced Chris O’Donnell. In this film, Connery makes the same entrance at the school, but instead of speaking up for the boy, he (SPOILER) slits F. Murray Abraham’s throat with an unseen dagger.
Okay, Connery doesn’t do that He pretty much does the same thing Pacino did, he just doesn’t say “Hoo-wa!”
By-the-numbers schmaltz, made just a little more bearable because director Gus Van Sant makes things visually interesting; rapper Busta’ Rhymes is around for a few yucks; and, Pacino is not in it.