The History Boys

Rated 2.0

Seven bright, exuberant English schoolboys prepare for their Cambridge and Oxford entrance exams with the help of three teachers. Alan Bennett’s play won six Tonys, five Drama Desk Awards and a Theatre World Award, and the movie (directed by Nicholas Hytner, one of those Tony winners) translates it intact to the screen, so it’s hard to explain why it’s so dull. Well, not dull exactly: It’s cleverly written and well-acted, but, despite all the earnestness and the rhetorical flashes of Bennett’s script, the characters and their tribulations never really engage our sympathy or interest. The one exception is Richard Griffiths (best known as Harry Potter’s mean Uncle Vernon), who paints a touching portrait of a sad, lonely old schoolmaster (his performance accounted for three of the play’s awards).