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!”
Like Al Pacino, Sean Connery plays William Forrester (a J.D. Salingeresque recluse who befriends a gentle student) as both crotchety and haunted. 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 in Finding Forrester (F. Murray Abraham) is actually really, really bad. He tries to railroad our hero by accusing him of plagiarism (Brown is writing under the tutelage of Connery). At one point, 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 Finding Forrester, 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, just a little less loud.
This is 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, Al Pacino is not in it.