Now, here is the noble teacher who makes a crucial difference in the lives of a bunch of trouble-prone school kids. This is such a shopworn inventory of characters that you’d think Hollywood would allow them to be excused for the next few generations - but no such luck.
The latest incarnation is John N. Smith’s “Dangerous Minds,” in which Michelle Pfeiffer, playing a Marine-turnedschoolteacher, follows in the footsteps of Robin Williams (1989’s “Dead Poets Society”), Glenn Ford (1955’s “The Blackboard Jungle”), Sidney Poitier (1966’s “To Sir, With Love”) and Edward James Olmos (1987’s “Stand and Deliver”).
“Dangerous Minds,” which belongs in the lesser company of “Dead Poets Society,” betrays its contempt for the kids early on.
Pfeiffer’s new job here involves a school too violent for any sane educator to want. Her slum-dweller students are portrayed as almost animalistically surly. And it is a foregone conclusion from the first reel that, like some evangelical missionary forging into jungle territory, she’ll be setting these lost souls onto the right path before many more hours have passed.
A bigoted movie despite its liberal use of inner-city lingo and attitudes, “Dangerous Minds” invites a well-intentioned bourgeois audience to look on in smug approval as culturally deprived kids from a hopeless background are redeemed by the genius of those two famous Dylans, Thomas and Bob. It hardly computes that the film should ignore such closer-to-home poets as Nikki Giovanni and Len Chandler - and never mind that a really good teacher would be teaching the kids how to snag jobs.
Screenwriter Ronald Bass and director Smith practically render Pfeiffer a candidate for sainthood, encouraging her to behave assertively while speaking in a timid little voice and lighting her scenes in a beatific glow. In its blanket assumption of cultural barrenness in the ghetto, the whole thing reeks of phoniness.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Dangerous Minds” Location:East Sprague, Newport and Coeur d’Alene cinemas. Credits: Directed John N. Smith, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Courtney B. Vance, George Dzundza Running time: 1:39 Rating: R