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A down-on-his-luck businessman desperately takes the only job offered - a teacher in the U.S. Army. His mission: keep a ragtag bunch of underachieving misfits from flunking out of basic training! Be on alert as this unlikely new teacher and his underdog class unexpectedly inspire each other to be all they can be! Written by
After failing to bring in audiences as a comedy under the original title "Renaissance Man", the movie was re-released to theaters a couple months later marketed as a drama with the alternate title "By The Book", and unsurprisingly pulled in far fewer receipts the second time through the theaters. See more »
One of the most moving experiences in cinema I had during the Nineties was watching Renaissance Man. It's more than a comedy about underachievers realizing their potential. It's about the man who makes them realize their worth as human beings getting quite an education about life himself.
Danny DeVito is that man in a role about as far removed as you can get from Louis DePalma in Taxi and Lawrence Garfield in Other People's Money. He's an advertising man who loses a couple of big clients while getting stuck in traffic and gets bounced from his job.
Needing an income while looking for a job, the Michigan Unemployment Department gives him an interesting job, a civilian remedial education teacher for the United States Army. He's assigned to a class of eight trainees who might wash out if they don't shape up. It's their mental attitudes that need adjusting.
A little trial and error and DeVito hits upon the idea to use Shakespeare, specifically Hamlet as a teaching tool. Interpreting and learning life's lesson from one of the greatest works of literature in the English language apparently works and in ways far beyond making these trainees get through basic training.
This is my favorite film with Danny DeVito and he's not an easy fit into army life. Cliff Robertson, James Remar, and Gregory Hines are some of the army people he deals with.
But the eight trainees are the heart of the film. Mark Wahlberg, Lillo Brancato, Kadeem Hardison, Richard Jones, Khalil Kain, Gregory Sporleto, Stacey Dash are seven of them. One of them doesn't make it through and ironically because of an act of kindness. But my favorite in the film is Peter Simmons who plays Private Brian Davis from Grand Forks, North Dakota. It's young men like him and his father before him in Vietnam who was killed in action who keep this country safe and secure. He gets the best recognition possible at the end of the film and you are guaranteed not to have a dry eye when you see it.
Renaissance Man is a beautifully crafted film from Penny Marshall and should not be missed when broadcast.
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