In Perfect Harmony, Peter Scolari (ultra-yuppie Michael on Newhart) plays Derek Sanders, the new choirmaster at Blanton Boys Academy, a fictional Southern school famous for its boys’ choir. Scolari’s best student is Taylor (Justin Whalin), a young man with an angelic soprano voice and noble instincts. Perfect Harmony is set in 1959, and we know Taylor is our hero because he’s one of the few students in this school who doesn’t hurl racial insults at the school’s black grounds keeper (Roots‘ Moses Gunn) and his grandson, Landy (Eugene Byrd).
Landy, who’s the same age as Taylor and his classmates, turns out to be a gifted singer and harmonica player — but everyone in Perfect Harmony finds out about Landy’s talents long after we do, which makes for a tedious TV movie. By & the end of the picture, Landy’s abilities have finally been recognized; under the careful tutelage of choirmaster Sanders, Landy sings a perfect solo, the only black face in this all-white group. An earnest combination of Dead Poets Society and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Perfect Harmony is a plea for racial tolerance that’s much too obvious to work very well as drama.
But the movie, directed by TV veteran Will MacKenzie, isn’t aimed at adults, who’ve probably seen many variations on this theme; Perfect Harmony is intended for young people, who can find something fresh and moving in this material. But despite the film’s solid performances — careful understatement by Scolari, straightforwardness by the young men, as well as sharp work in a small role by Darren McGavin — Perfect Harmony remains just a well-crafted TV movie, no more, no less.