Music Within is one of those stand up and cheer films based on a true story. The real life hero is Richard Pimentel, a colorful speaker that took a circuitous route to where he ended up in life.
Pimentel is ably played by Ron Livingston. As a young man, while he doesn't have the money for college, he is a gifted speaker. He auditions up at the university for Ben Padrow (the ever present, but consistently good Hector Elizondo) the toughest speech professor since mine back in college. While the speeches that Pimentel gives for the audition are nothing short of impressive, Padrow suggests that Pimentel get some "real life experience" so he actually has something to talk about. Well, that goal for some experience leads Pimentel to Vietnam, where needless to say he gets more than he bargains for. After completing a heroic mission, meriting a personal thank you from his CO, as he plays cards with some buddies he ends up deaf from an incoming projectile.
The Army's answer is to discharge him, send him his disability check, and they don't think it's worth even putting the money into him to send him to college (enlightened thinking of the 70's). Pimentel teaches himself to read lips, befriends another disabled person, Art Honeyman (Michael Sheen), and soon gets a job where he is overpaid and underworked at an insurance company where they don't even know he's deaf. Now most guys out there would have rested on their laurels at that point, right? Not Pimentel who then leaves the cushy insurance job to help his fellow vets, and ends up being one of the key players in the Americans with Disabilities Act decades later.
Music Within has an amazing background story. Telling the story of Richard Pimentel, not exactly a household name, and what he achieved in the face of adversity should have made for a compelling movie. However, unlike films such as Freedom Writers, or The Ron Clark Story I just didn't feel the heroic part as much. Maybe I just didn't know where this was going for most of the film, but I was quite surprised at the end to hear that this guy had anything to do that was on the national stage. Maybe for too much of the film, Music Within just feels like a second tier affair, which is too bad given its subject matter. It's more of a "sit up and smile" than a "stand up and cheer" film, but still, I've seen worse. This is the point at which fellow Armchair Critic reviewer JB often says something like "it's not that it's a bad film, it's just that it's not a very good one" and that pretty much sums up what we have here.
Overall Grade: B-
Reviewed by Jonas