Mr. Holland's Opus


Polydor Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Tammy Childs


Mr. Holland's Opus starred Richard Dreyfus as the musically oppressed teacher Glenn Holland, Olympia Dukakis as the school principal and Jay Thomas as the sidekick, coach Bill Meister. The movie takes you through approximately 30 years of Mr. Holland's life, from the moment he's begrudgingly forced into teaching school, to the realization that it was all worthwhile and his life was not a waste after all ("it's not what direction you take, it's about the direction you give").

The soundtrack from this film is diverse. Because 30 years is covered, the movie highlights a variety of styles and forms of popular music. Specific songs help set the timeframe and mood for specific scenes. The tunes bounce with the high-energy "One Two Three" by Len Berry to the dramatic message of John Lennon's "Imagine" to the symphonic closing number entitled "An American Symphony."

George and Ira Gershwin's "Someone to Watch Over Me" is sufficiently performed by Julia Fordham. In the movie, however, the song is sung by Jean Louise Keely's character Rowena, and is a much sweeter, more honest rendition. I greatly prefer the actual piece in the movie to the soundtrack version. Keely's dovelike vocals are perfect for the 1926 oldie.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Uptight" by Stevie Wonder (1991) is fun just because it's difficult not to enjoy yourself with Wonder. He makes music entertaining because he takes pleasure in performing. Jackson Browne's 1976 hit "The Pretender" takes you back to the smooth vocals of an often-neglected artist.

Julian Lennon sings "Cole's Song" for the soundtrack, dedicated in the movie to Mr. Holland's deaf son, Cole. Richard Dreyfus unabashedly performs the song himself in the movie. He lacks finesse, but he is unapologetic for his crude performance -- and because of that, it is one of the best songs in the movie. He humbly fulfills his commission with raw emotion and intensity. I ignored Julian's version when listening to the CD because I knew it just couldn't compare.

The movie closes with a farewell symphony to the retiring Mr. Holland. Based on a fragmented piece he had begun 30 years prior, it rounds off not only the movie but the soundtrack as well. He has ached and cried over its creation, but never saw its completion come to fruition. The faithful students perform his song as a surprise. It is the best song of the soundtrack, probably due to the emotional aspect.

At the very least, this soundtrack is an entertaining walk down memory lane. The songs are familiar and comfortable. The few original pieces are the icing on the cake. The closing of the movie and of the soundtrack is dramatic and tear-jerking.

As a side note, the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation was created to recognize and support music education through donation and repair of musical instruments. "Across the national, school and community music programs have been discontinued or severely diminished due to budget cuts. The positive effects of music education on children's emotional and intellectual growth have been proven. Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation (MHOF) sees the importance of music in the lives of all children, and seeks to keep music alive in our schools." ( The foundation was inspired by the motion picture and the film's composer, Michael Kamen, founded MHOF in 1996 as his commitment to the future of music education.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2005 Tammy Childs and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Polydor Records, and is used for informational purposes only.