"Dangerous Minds" tackles the plot of a duck-out-of-water teacher taking on an unruly inner-city classroom. But this film has a bit of a twist. Instead of the teacher only imparting wisdom to the class in an effort to make them more like him, this film has the teacher, played wonderfully by Michelle Pfeiffer, also learning to be more like her students. .
I especially enjoyed watching her become one of "them", thus blurring the line between teacher and student. But, because of this, it rings much more true and natural. It doesn't seem to require that false sense of hopefulness that tends to make other films in the genre seem less realistic. When the students learn here, it seems much more like their desire than as if the teacher somehow willed it upon them.
Based on a true story, the incidents depicted in this movie transpire in a single school year, while they may have taken years to unfold in reality. It was great to see Michelle Pfeiffer's character transform herself to become not only a teacher to her students but also minister, mother, protector and mentor. To be sure, she uses some questionable methods to get on the "ins" with her class. She rewards them with treats from candy bars to amusement parks, and she uses rock lyrics to introduce her class to poetry. The learning soon does become its own reward. Pfeiffer has to work harder and to do whatever it takes, whether we agree with it or not, to achieve the results we know both she and we want.
The abundant use of foul language in the classroom was a bit of a turn off to me, but while this may not be proper, it does seem necessary. Pfeiffer can't turn these kids around just by being a shining example . . . she has to go down to their level in order to bring them up to hers. Emotionally and psychologically, she travels as far as the students here do, and that's what makes this movie so interesting and inspiring for future educators like myself.