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Music of the Heart Review

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An inspirational teacher brings harmony and hope to inner city kids.

★★★★★

Disadvantaged kids from Harlem are taught to reach for their dreams by music teacher Streep in this true story flick.

Beyond the shock that horrormeister Craven selected such a clean, sweet genre departure - he himself was a teacher, he loves classical music and he admired an Oscar-nominated documentary of this story - the film itself is a surprise-free zone.

Streep plays Roberta Guaspari, a divorced mother who, needing a job and having no work experience, marched into a poor Harlem school with 50 violins and set about transforming class after class of little desperadoes into disciplined, motivated musicians.

Quinn is the old flame who gives her the idea, Bassett the tough principal who buys it, and Gloria Estefan (who naturally sings the title song) makes her acting debut a modest one as the obligatory fellow teacher buddy.

Villains are the jealous department head and, widely relevant, the authorities cancelling arts funding to schools. While commendably leery of making this a tale of, 'Do-gooding white woman brings hope into the ghetto,' the filmmakers aren't bent on confronting too many grim realities, either. It's more about Roberta's growth from abandoned wife to warrior educator, pumped by American mantras like, "You shouldn't quit something just because it's hard."

This is standard TV movie fare - you'd catch it on Channel 5 if Donna Mills was in it. It's only a movie movie because it boasts Streep. Yes, she is splendid, the kids are darling and the music - when it gets past the tykes excruciatingly sawing out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - is lovely.

If you liked Mr Holland's Opus you'll like this feminine variation at least as much. But must everything uplifting be so obvious and stultifyingly sincere?

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