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>
In the auditorium scene, where Mr. Clark expels the students on-stage, a young Taye Diggs can be seen sitting in the audience. He is the one wearing a blue shirt. See more »
The practice exam booklet reads "New Jersey Minimun Basic Skills Tests"...probably the last place the school board (or the film's producers) would want a spelling error. See more »
[after seeing the dilapidated, crime-infested interior of Eastside High School, Joe Clark, the new elected principal, is introduced to the school board]
We want to welcome Mr. Clark to Eastside - we've heard so much about you - and to tell you what we've done in anticipation of your arrival. Ms. Levias, your other vice-principal, and I have appointed an executive committee to oversee certain areas where we have noted a need for improvement. Mr. Zirella, for example...
[cuts him off]
You may sit ...
[...] 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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