Newest Review: ... near edgy enough. Michelle Pfeiffer was acceptable in her role, but nothing particularly special, although I do put this down the wa... more
Teacher attempts breakthrough!
Dangerous Minds (DVD)
Member Name: GentleGenius
Dangerous Minds (DVD)
Advantages: Not many
Disadvantages: Too twee, been done before but far better, the largely dreadful music
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 99 mins
DIRECTOR: John N Smith
PRODUCERS: Jerry Bruckheimer & Don Simpson
SCREENPLAY: Ronald Bass
MUSIC: Lisa Coleman & Wendy Melvoin
Michelle Pfeiffer as Louanne Johnson
Courtney B Vance as George Grandey
Renoly Santiago as Raul Sanchero
Wade Dominguez as Emilio Ramirez
George Dzundza as Hal Griffith
Bruklin Harris as Callie Roberts
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Ex-marine divorcee Louanne Johnson is accepted for a post as a teacher in a tough inner city American school.
Once confronted with her obnoxiously rebellious class, Louanne resolves to grab their interest, stimulate their minds and teach them something worthwhile. However, the task proves to be not as easy as she anticipates.
I chose to watch Dangerous Minds, as I believed it would give a relatively up-to-date slant on an age-old story topic, that of determined teacher versus a class of attitude-ish layabouts.
The first thing which irritated me as the film got underway was the music, as I can't bear rap. I do appreciate such music is more conducive to a mid-1990s teen angst situation than something from my own or previous eras, but my dislike of rap instantly got my hackles up. However, I was prepared to....pardon the pun...face the music, and see through what I hoped would evolve into a tough, gritty and rewarding piece of drama.
With the exception of Wade Dominguez as the irascible student Emilio Ramirez and George Dzundza as Hal Griffith, fellow teacher at the same school and personal friend of Louanne, I found most of the acting....even Michelle Pfeiffer as Louanne....far too contrived, and quite frankly, nowhere near edgy enough. Michelle Pfeiffer was acceptable in her role, but nothing particularly special, although I do put this down the way this storyline was handled by the direction/production team and screenplay writer, rather than anything especially lacking in Pfeiffer's acting abilities.
For me, the kids in this film simply weren't nasty enough, and the problems they posed to Louanne didn't even border insurmountable, let alone provide a particularly stringent challenge. The class, largely from poverty-stricken homes, who spent their leisure time caught up in gang culture and all that goes with it, were far too easily drawn into the off-curriculum methods Louanne chose as her way of attempting to grab their interest, stimulate their minds and set them on a pathway of self-examination and thoughtfulness.
There was so very much about Dangerous Minds for me that just didn't hit the realism spot. For instance, I consider it highly unlikely that a classful of adolescent degenerates would instantly warm to the poetry of Bob Dylan, but this lot did. I would have thought a more appropriate way to get through to these young people via poetry would have been to encourage them to analyse the philosophy behind the lyrics to the music of their own generation....rap! Once that has been achieved, if in fact it could be, then perhaps the process can be expanded in an outwards direction, maybe onto Bob Dylan! When Bob Dylan was producing music that expanded the mind of a whole generation, he was speaking to young people whose whole philosophy of life and culture was a million worlds away from that which arose in the late 1980s, into the 1990s and is prevalent now.
The one valuable thing Louanne did manage to stimulate her young charges towards giving considered thought to, was the issue of choice....how we all, even if we aren't aware of it, choose which handle we grab hold of out of those available in any given situation. For me, that....and the brief inclusion of a section of Bob Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man into the musical score....were the only things that had any deep, true or realistic meaning in the whole film.
Whilst watching, I was reminded of the 1967 British film To Sir With Love, which in itself I find lacking down the route of realism. I was also reminded of the American 1950s gem, Blackboard Jungle. These connections I made purely from the shared subject matter aspect, because as far as the presentation of Dangerous Minds is concerned, I even feel that To Sir With Love is better. There is no comparison between Dangerous Minds and Blackboard Jungle....the latter is many streets ahead in content, acting, realism....everything!
There is far too much 'twee-ness' about Dangerous Minds, although I do appreciate that it quite likely is a valiant, maybe even genuine attempt to draw people's attention to the possibility of the right person who uses the right tools, being able to make a breakthrough when it comes to educating rebellious youth. The twee parts were mainly Louanne's lack of understanding of the young people's street culture, the poverty and apathy inside of their homes, who they perceive as heroes and who they perceive as villains and what they feel they have to do in their private lives in order to be accepted and hold onto their somewhat warped sense of pride. OK, it's warped, but it's there. Louanne attempted to turn their negativity into positivity, but without fully comprehending the grey areas....and I'm certain the film isn't intended to be interpreted in that way. I feel the specific aim of any 'message' Dangerous Minds may contain is one of teacher triumphing over pupils. In this particular film and for me, it just didn't work, as I simply didn't find any of it truly convincing.
I just got the impression that the direction/production/screenplay writing team maybe sat around a table, nodded their heads a few times, and reached a mutual conclusion that Dangerous Minds would contain a teacher, some tough kids, a bit of tragedy, a bit of mawkishness, some terrible music....glue it all together, and here we have a film! I'd like to have seen Dangerous Minds really roughed up, all the sugar and spice taken out of it and to have truly been given some deep food for thought.
In conclusion and as far as I'm concerned, Dangerous Minds is a mediocre - albeit moderately watchable - film that in order to hit all or most of the right chords inside of me, needs a serious overhaul and dragging upwards into the land of realism....more grit, less gooey sentimentalism and to be something that slams worryingly hard into my sense of awareness, rather than making me cringe with something bordering embarrassment.
My overall recommendation is....watch Blackboard Jungle instead. It's far, far closer to reality, much more tense, much grittier and hard-hitting, even if it is almost 60 years old!
At the time of writing, Dangerous Minds can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: from £3.32 to £19.99
Used: from 57p to 91p
A delivery charge of £1.26 should be added to the above figures.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
Summary: Not a patch on its same genre predecessors