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 <email@example.com>
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 »
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 »
Mayor Don Bottman:
What do you want?
Mayor Don Bottman:
Just like that, huh? Head on a platter.
You think I got an attitude. Well, let me tell you what I think. I know why you like Clark. He's a guard dog. Does your dirty work. Keeps the black folk in line - that's fine. But you've got to get re-elected. I've got enough folks lined up with me to give you a DAMN hard time, and I will get more. I will organize. I will beat the streets.
Mayor Don Bottman:
Unless I do what?
Appoint me to the school board so we can vote Clark out. Otherwise, we'll ...
[...] See more »
the saga of Crazy Joe, and a superb lead performance
I wouldn't recommend Lean on Me anywhere near as much if it had another actor in the lead. Morgan Freeman owns the role of Principal Joe Clark so well that it might just be, over-the-top bits and all, one of his most commanding screen performances. It's such a rich (if not complex) part to play, as the one guy who comes in like a sheriff in the clueless small old-west town, that you need someone who can rule the screen even in those little moments when (and they're not many in this case) the actor doesn't have much to do alongside another actor. Freeman is so good and scene stealing and all those wonderful things we love him for that he makes one forget that the film he's in is only 'alright' at best and at worst is preachy and confused in its tone going between super tough/realistic and sentimental.
It's about a notorious school in Paterson, New Jersey, and how Joe Clark- who taught there in the 60s- is begged to be brought back to bring it back to some normalcy from the degradation of hardcore 80s madness (crack and gangs and other things infiltrating the high schoolers). While it is, as Ebert pointed out, kind of an unsympathetic character Clark is, I somehow can forgive the faults in the script for the acting (aside from Freeman there are other actors, like Robert Guillame and Michael beach and Beverly Todd, who can go up to bat with the likes of the star). It's the kind of feel-good-feel-bad 80s story that somehow stays past its time and place (albeit if you're from Jersey or especially Paterson there's some extra connection), and it's at least one other decent career note for Rocky director Avildsen.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?