Lean on Me [1989]

Rocky director John Avildsen championed the briefly famous New Jersey high school principal Joe Clark in this upbeat 1989 drama. Morgan Freeman plays the tough-love educator who wields a baseball bat and bullhorn to keep discipline in his hallways and to motivate underachieving students to keep their acts together. After establishing Clark's controversial methods and showing him giving some punks the boot, Avildsen relies on the usual school-drama clich├ęs to fill out the rest of the movie, including a challenge to Clark's philosophy from timid authorities. Freeman makes a strong impact as Clark, his dignity and integrity a sometimes awesome thing. Avildsen, however, is going for a Rocky-esque emotional crescendo. --Tom Keogh

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