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>
Rocky and Karate Kid director, John Avildsen takes his stand-up-and-cheer style from the ring and the dojo to the halls of New Jersey's Eastside High School in this true story of the mercurial, and controversial, principal, Joe Clark. Morgan Freeman shines and has a strong supporting cast in this loud and manipulative, but nonetheless effective entry into the educator-hero genre. The story strains credibility and often goes over the top, but the fast pace and great Freeman performance allow this to still be an entertaining film.
Freeman's Joe Clark is recruited by Superintendent, Frank Napier (Robert Guillaume) for the seemingly impossible task of turning around the violent and out of control Eastside High School School and somehow motivating the staff and students to improve their results on the State Literacy Exam, or else see the school fall under state control. Clark uses a bullhorn, a baseball bat and a confrontational style with his staff and combines it with a tough, nurturing relationship with his students to try to bring this about, while battling alienated staff and angry parents, led by Ms. Levias (Lynne Thigpen) to try to bring about the desired changes.
Sure, this film is far-fetched and overblown and even has a couple scenes that approach unintentional humor, but it has enough strengths to compensate and make it worthwhile viewing for those who enjoy the true story school genre that Hollywood loves so much. Morgan Freeman is always a pleasure to watch and he is very strong here. So get ready to stand up and cheer!
(This review was first posted on realmoviereview.com)
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