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 he is 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>
Several homages to PBS children's programming are referenced in the film. When Clark was seen as a history teacher, in the 1967 scene, he sported an Afro similar to the character Easy Reader on The Electric Company (1971), where Morgan Freeman was part of the cast; when he arrives at Eastside High, on the first day on the job, he wears a business suit similar to the one he had during The Electric Company's opening credits. Also, Lynne Thigpen would later join the cast of the PBS series, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1991), as the Chief. See more »
Joe Clark was able to clean up Eastside High School and was able to make the school a safer place with strict discipline. However, in reality the test scores of Eastside High School students only went up conservatively and not in the dramatic fashion seen in the movie. See more »
What happened this morning is an outrage! My boy's no criminal! He and those children belong in school, not back out on the streets! Our kids don't deserve this! Some of those children are smart. They're just discouraged what chances they got out there, what kind of jobs they got waiting for them. What chance do they have now? He insulted the black football coach! The man's gone crazy! He's declared war on his own people!
May I remind you, Miss Barrett, that Mr. Clark was nice enough to come to ...
[...] See more »
You Are the One
Performed by T.K.A. (as TKA)
Produced by Tony Moran and Joey Gardner
Courtesy of Tommy Boy Records
Written by Keath Lowry (as K. Lowery) and David Gaskins (as D. Gaskins) 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.
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