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Lean on Me (1989)

 -  Action | Drama  -  3 March 1989 (USA)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 12,707 users  
Reviews: 69 user | 11 critic

The dedicated but tyrannical Joe Clark is appointed the principal of a decaying inner-city school that he is determined to improve.

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Title: Lean on Me (1989)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Alan North ...
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Sandra Reaves-Phillips ...
Sloane Shelton ...
Jermaine 'Huggy' Hopkins ...
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Kaneesha Carter
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Maria
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Mrs. Santos
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Mrs. Carter
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Storyline

An arrogant and unorthodox teacher returns as principal to the idyllic high school from which he had earlier been fired to find it a den of drug abuse, gang violence, and urban despair. Eventually his successful but unorthodox methods lead to a clash with city officials that threatens to undo all his efforts. Based on a true story. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Eastside High was out of control...until Joe Clark took it back. See more »

Genres:

Action | Drama

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

3 March 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Apóyate en mi  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Gross:

$31,906,454 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The real-life Joe Clark resigned as principal of Eastside High School shortly after the film was released. Around the time the film debuted he was suspended by the school board for one week after scheduling an assembly in which dancers stripped down to their G-strings. Clark said he hadn't known about it advance. Ironically, the man who suspended him was Dr. Frank Napier, the superintendent played by 'Robert Guillaume' in the film.

After Clark left Eastside he became an author and motivational speaker.

In 1995, he was hired to run a juvenile detention center in Newark, New Jersey, a position he held until he resigned in 2002. During his time there he once again came under fire for his controversial methods. See more »

Goofs

After Mr Clark is done keeping the Fire Chief out, on his way back into the school he tells Mr Darnell its good to have him back. Mr Darnell says "You should have never fired me in the first place". He never fired him. He suspended him. See more »

Quotes

Joe Clark: Alright people, here we are. In one hour, you are going to take an exam administered by the State to test your basic skills and the quality of education at East Side High. I want to tell you what the people are saying about you and what they think about your chances. They say you're inferior! You are just a bunch of niggers and spics and poor white trash! Education is wasted on you! You cannot learn! You're lost! I mean ALL of you! I want all the white students to stand up. All my white ...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Psych: High Top Fade Out (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

LEAN ON ME
Performed by Thelma Houston and The Winans
Produced by Richard Perry
Courtesy of Qwest Records
Written by Bill Withers
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User Reviews

 
Despite a shaky script, Morgan Freeman gives a terrific performance in an intense, challenging role
24 July 2007 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Lean on Me is based around the experiences of Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman), who becomes the principal of a destitute New Jersey high school plagued with violence, drugs, and abysmal academic performance. Clark is given the daunting task of bringing student's test scores up to the minimum acceptable level within one school year or the school will be taken over by the state.

Clark is fiercely strict and demanding towards both his students and teachers. This makes him the target of countless parents, board members, civil servants, and other teachers determined to bring him and his radical new style down. Despite outside resistance Clark becomes a pillar of hope for numerous students inspired by his harsh but ultimately uplifting demands for disciple, self betterment, and loyalty to their school and educational achievement.

What sets Lean on Me apart from numerous other sentimental inspirational flicks is the unconventional style of Clark and Morgan Freeman's masterful portrayal of him. Yes this is the drill sergeant of miracle workers if ever there was one. From tone to mannerisms Joe Clark is given a distinctive ambiance, Morgan Freemen IS the dominating force behind this entire film.

And this is where the film stumbles somewhat. None of the supporting characters are given enough development to really set them apart as individuals. The closest we get is with a bright young girl trying her best to succeed at school despite numerous domestic problems at home. She is won over by Clark almost immediately coming to view him as a mentor/father figure. The problem is that her subplot like the others becomes neglected in the latter half of the film and is never given enough meaningful resolution to make the final scenes believable. Its like going from point A to point C while ignoring B.

I also question the wisdom in using an imaginary plot point (the supposed school take over) and exaggerating the level of the student's academic improvement. It cheapens the genuine accomplishments of the school and clashes with the hard-edged momentum of Joe Clark. The story is worthy in of itself and didn't benefit from being exaggerated for dramatics.

Lean on Me clearly could have been much more than what it is. But faults aside I would still highly recommend it to see Freeman's Oscar worthy performance.


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