A Blackboard Jungle, a To Sir, with Love, for the Nineties. Which means something nearer a music video than a bona fide movie, driven by a persistent rackety background beat, and speeded through five-minute class periods forever interrupted by the clangorous bell at peaks of tension and unsettlement. The innate strength of the formula, debilitated though it is, somehow endures: the spectacle of an opening mind and/or a caring teacher awakens the snoozing idealist in all of us. And Renoly Santiago is very touching (even in so stale a situation as attempting to order a simple chicken, a whole one thank you, in a tony French restaurant) as the runty Latino who finds it easier and more rewarding to conquer the poetry of the two Dylans, Bob and Thomas, than to conquer the class bully. On the other hand -- the untouching hand -- is Michelle Pfeiffer, who is so busy demonstrating her sensitivity as an actress (darting glances, fluttering gestures) that she can't be bothered to demonstrate her toughness as a character: an ex-Marine celibate divorcée who digs deep into her own pockets to provide her students with candy-bar incentives, field trips, contest prizes, personal loans. Directed by John N. Smith. (1995) — Duncan Shepherd
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