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00684 - LEAN ON ME

Movie-Hype00684 - LEAN ON ME

Based on a real life New Jersey high school; more or less. I remember the principal: Mean Joe Clark. I remember how Reagan cited him for cleaning up a troubled inner city school. I remember how Clark supposedly carried a baseball bat around.

In the movie, Morgan Freeman effortlessly plays Clark. Did they get all of the details correct? I cannot imagine they did. Inner city schools are bad, but this one was almost a caricature. (The beginning looks alarmingly like HIGH SCHOOL HIGH, which is supposed to be a spoof.) Beyond that, no explanation is ever made for why “Mean” Joe Clark can treat adults—teachers, no less—that poorly and get away with it.

Somehow, it still works. Why? Because Morgan Freeman is fun to watch. Because you know the students will eventually shape up and pass their tests so the state will not take over the school. Because you know that at least some of it is real (Freeman reportedly spent hours with Clark to get his mannerisms down), and we like the idea of a principal mad as hell and ready to kick major ass to bring a chaotic dangerous environment out of control.

Now if they would only do that for the rest of inner-city schools.

Maybe not a go-to rental, but if you see LEAN ON ME come on cable, a definite make-time-for movie.

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