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'Lean On Me (1989)' Movie Review: Whatever it takes

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Eastside High School in 1987 is plagued with gangs, drugs, and drop out rates that are the highest in Paterson, New Jersey. The school superintendent Dr. Frank Napier (Robert Guillaume)wants to bring in Joe Clark (Morgan Freeman). Now Clark had taught at Eastside some twenty years earlier and knew the school. The main problem about Eastside is they were not meeting passing scores on the basic skills test.

Clark takes the assignment and soon has problems. A student that he had suspended wants to come back to school. He and Clark are up on the roof of the school and Clark goes off on the kid about crack and what it will do to him. Clark finds out just how serious the kid is about coming back to school. After passing a quick test Clark lets the boy come back.

You see the boy had been caught up in the dismissal of hundreds of students. Parents had complained and lawsuits had been filed. Clark really wanted to find out just what the kid wanted, drugs or an education.

Clark later runs into another youth who had been dismissed but this student was fighting with another student. Clark finally decides to chain the doors after the bell rings in the morning thus keeping out the thugs but also locking up the other students. Problem is it breaks the fire code.

Clark finally has run ins with a mother by the name of Leona Barrett. Now Barrett was a civil rights activist and also a pot smoker so she had her own problems, but she made it her crusade to get Clark out of Eastside High School. Barrett sides with the mayor and the two team up against Clark.

This movie came at a time when tough rules were needed to keep high schools in line. The story is true and is one of the best ever made. Director John G. Avildsen brings together a cast that truly nails down the story of Joe Clark. Clark was an educator who was also truly of the best. Clark was a man who got the job done. This is a movie that is a must see.

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