Parents' Guide to

Lean on Me

By Polly M. Robertus, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Inspirational drama has language, violence, drug references.

Movie PG-13 1989 109 minutes
Lean on Me Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 13+

Based on 4 parent reviews

age 13+

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If you’re checking reviews on a site like this, your child’s school is likely pretty safe. It takes parent, teacher, and student involvement to foster the right kind of environment to support active learning. This film provides great examples of why the whole community needs to pitch in. In terms of loose attitudes and teaching/support styles, this can be considered a period piece. The principal uses tough love with young adults who need to learn boundaries. There is violence and swearing, but they are used to depict the sorry state the school system and area were in at the time. The film can be used to foster a great conversation on how practices have changed over time, an explanation of zero-tolerance policies, and what it means to take responsibility for your own life and decisions. The message that we can all turn out lives around rings just as true today, even though circumstances may vary.
age 14+

Insight can be gained.

I wanted to watch this movie because I liked Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader on THE ELECTRIC COMPANY; therefore, I thought that I'd like him here too. He was even better as Principal Joe Clark. Clark's tactics were questionable and sometimes confusing, but his intentions were neither questionable nor confusing. His intentions were good. An excellent time for parents to show their teens the difference between tactics and intentions. Regardless of what one thinks of his tactics, violence at the school went down while test scores went up. Moreover, even when Clark received complaints from parents and got in trouble with the law, others, particularly the students, supported him. An excellent opportunity for parents that even the most controversial behavior is sometimes not without support.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (4 ):
Kids say (8 ):

This high-energy portrayal of a true story will hold viewers' attention with its terrific performances -- particularly from Freeman, who is dazzling as the temperamental Clark. It certainly makes Lean on Me a compelling watch, but inspiration turns to discomfort at points when Clark appears as out of control as the school he's trying to reform -- which sets the film apart from more polished, cookie-cutter examples that can lose complexity in their attempt to portray heroism.

Some subplots are left a little unexplored, but serve more as a means of showing a much-needed softer side to Clark, such as the troubles of his student Kaneesha (an empathetic and very watchable Karen Malina White). Overall, the movie balances its inspiring message with enough gray areas to raise important questions about whether the ends always justify the means.

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