This is a movie about a guy who plays the trumpet and gets a job teaching music appreciation at a high school. It would be just wrong of me to not share a couple of personal stories from when I took a class in The History of Jazz and Rock in college now.
My teacher was also a jazz musician. I don’t remember how it came up, but he shared one of the greatest regrets of his life with us. He lived in New York City with his girlfriend only a few blocks from CBGB in the mid to late 1970s. According to him, he was such a jazz snob that he refused to make the short walk down there to see groups like The Ramones as they were blowing up on the music scene. He said it was one of the dumbest things he ever did and regrets it to this day.
The other thing is that music appreciation classes can be amazing things. Music is so interconnected. I remember how his face lit up when he read a paper where I wrote I listened to Dick Dale, then Motörhead (RIP Lemmy) and could hear the similarities in their sound. See if you can hear it. I have embedded two songs below: The Wedge by Dick Dale and Iron Fist by Motörhead.
You also learn interesting things such as that country and rap are actually very similar types of music. In fact, some deliberately fuse the two types of music. Same goes for the blues. I can’t possibly be the only one who heard Nirvana’s cover of Leadbelly’s Ain’t It A Shame at the end of Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015) and thought it was a country song at first. Then again, Leadbelly was a blues and country artist too. The division between the two genres was created by record companies that told blues artists to only record blues and country artists to only record country. In reality, they both played country and blues. Nirvana just took out Leadbelly’s lines about not beating your wife and replaced it with Kurt’s angry sarcastic vocals to get the same point across.
You learn why it shouldn’t have been surprising to anyone why Billy Joe Armstrong could write a song like Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) and songs like Basket Case. Also, that rap and jazz are alike in that improvisation is a central element of both genres of music. I remember in 2002 when Johnny Cash seemed to surprise everyone by taking a Nine Inch Nails song (Hurt) and turning it into a sad and beautiful capstone on his long career. My local San Francisco based alt rock station even played it. They even put a sort of disclaimer saying oh yeah, we are going to play Johnny Cash. If you don’t like it, we don’t care. It’s amazing what he did with this otherwise lesser known Nine Inch Nails song so we are playing it. It’s only in the heads of the fans that artists live in a world where only the art they make exists.
Sadly, this movie isn’t really about music appreciation. That would require copy written music. It’s about a music teacher who is going to get his life back on track while also helping a young brilliant trumpet player realize his potential. And look who plays the teacher!
It’s Eddie Cibrian who played Buddy in Healing Hands. This time he is playing a character named Clay. When he arrives in class he discovers quickly that he has some tough students to deal with and that promising student as well. And no, Coolio won’t be sitting him down in a dark room to sing about living in a Gangsta’s Paradise.
Also, since this is not one of those put a bonnet on it films like The Reckoning, he will also not be sat down by Weird “Al” Yankovic to be told about living in a Amish Paradise.
Instead, he goes outside to see himself from Healing Hands, but named Manny played by Michael Beach
Michael Beach? That sounds familiar to me. Not from one of his other many many many acting credits. I know him from Quantum Leap of course!
That’s from the episode called Justice where Sam leaps into a KKK member. During that scene he has to pretend he is a KKK member and prevent Michael Beach’s character from helping an older black man register to vote. Can’t think of why that episode is fresh in my memory at all. Interestingly, Eriq La Salle, who directed this movie, was in an episode of Quantum Leap during the same season of the show as Michael Beach’s episode.
Clay comes back to class the next day and decides to teach the kids the three B’s of classical music.
He brought a record of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, and even manipulates the record with his hand. Sounded very familiar to me. I really wondered where I had heard that before. After racking my brain I figured it out! The particular section he manipulates is from Robin Thicke’s early song When I Get You Alone.
Cause of course it is. Why?
Yep, Alan Thicke is in the movie. He’s barely in the movie, but he is there as a music store owner. You can call it a cameo because he only has a few minutes of screen time. I refuse to believe that’s a coincidence.
Back in the classroom, the principal comes in and tells him he needs to stick to the approved curriculum. Doesn’t say what that is, but obviously connecting modern music with classical music to get the kids interested in the material is a no no.
Now we find out that he is on the outs with his ex-wife and kids because he really let his love of music get in the way of everything else. Oh, and here’s the promising trumpet player.
I could take you blow by blow now (no trumpet pun intended), but there’s no point. As Clay gets closer to the kid who plays the trumpet he has to find ways to connect with him. The experience helps him to find ways of reconnecting with his own child. The school is in trouble and he decides to have the kids form a band to get the school some positive attention. Not really sure how that’s going to save the school, but let’s just tuck that away. He also gets close to the principal because he has to end up with someone.
It’s a nice small scale story like Chasing A Dream that is one of those few Hallmark movies that really breaks from their usual mold. And it does a pretty job of it. I liked Eddie Cibrian and the story is uplifting. It could have been better for sure. This one has a marginal recommendation from me. Just don’t expect a movie about music appreciation. It’s about two people getting their life back on track with music being an important part of that journey.
But how do I end this review? Well, I’ll go the easy way. I mentioned Motörhead and Lemmy passed away recently, so here is Motörhead performing Please Don’t Touch with their friends Girlschool as Motör Headgirl School.