The Principal (1987) – Movie Review – on Amazon

 

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By Melissa Antoinette Garza

 

THE PRINCIPAL (1987) is another comfort film or me.  For years, I thought it was a quality rip-off of LEAN ON ME, but shockingly the latter came out two years after.  THE PRINCIPAL is more of an action than a drama.

The lead character Rick Latimer (Jim Belushi) wields a bat in some scenes and takes on the drug dealers and miscreants head-on.  So, it makes sense that I’d see similarities between the two and make assumptions.

That said, I love both movies.  I think Belushi is a great actor only hindered because people compared him to what they anticipated his brother, the late great John Belushi was going to do.  It’s completely unfair.  John did some amazing work.  I love THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980) and ANIMAL HOUSE (1978), but after his untimely death, many put him on a pedestal.  They put forth an idea of a man who would always be amazing and never fall from grace, when in life he didn’t even live up to that.  In fairness, no one could.  What’s even worse is that the powers-that-be opted to hold Jim Belushi to that unrealistic expectation and he didn’t really get the shot he deserved.

THE PRINCIPAL is a perfect example of how different he was from his brother, but was sensational in his own right.  He could’ve been a fantastic action star if given the opportunity.  He could have been the next Charles Bronson, but instead he was sent to sitcom hell.

The film starts when Latimer sees his ex-wife on a date with her divorce attorney.  He gets into a fight and bashes in the car when the cops come.  He expects to get fired from being a teacher, but instead gets promoted to principal of a violent and drug infested school.

At first, he gets push back from everyone including the teachers who are upset that the hoodlums are forced to attend their classes now.  That said, the head of security, Jake Phillips (Louis Gossett Jr.) learns to appreciate Latimer’s dedication.

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When one of the teachers, Ms. Orozco (Rae Dawn Chong) nearly gets raped, Latimer steps up to teach her class in her absence.  The violence gets worse when the biggest troublemaker, gang leader Victor (Michael Wright) along with his followers hangs ex-gangbanger Emile (Troy Winbush) by his ankles and throws him through the glass ceiling of the school into Latimer’s arms.

Latimer nearly gives up until Emile tells him that he doesn’t want to be beaten for nothing.  That builds Rick’s resolve back up and he enters the school stronger than ever before.  Phillips joins him in his venture to take down Victor and make certain that the school is safe from him and his gang members.

In the conclusion, a massive and exciting showdown exists between the two forces.

This film is just brilliant.  For one, Louis Gossett Jr. is just always perfect in any role.  Need proof?  DIGGSTOWN (1992), JASPER TEXAS (2003), ENEMY MINE (1985), and AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN (1982) are just a few of the films that are great because of him.  Hell, he made JAWS 3-D (1983) awesome!  Well him and the shark coming through the glass; I love that so much!  Gossett can sell anything and he can portray anyone.  Unsurprisingly, he was skillful and fabulous in the role of Phillips.

Wright was terrific as the villain Victor, but whenever I see him in anything, all I can think of is him saying, “the Big Bad Taylor brothers” from the V miniseries (1983).  the V miniseries is the best conspiracy/alien film of all time.  ALIEN (1979) fans can disagree all they want, but the original V has everything.  If you haven’t seen it seek it out.

Back to THE PRINCIPAL; is a must-see.  It has a fantastic cast, characters with depth, an exciting plot and a very likable hero.  It’s on Amazon for both rent and purchase at a very reasonable price of $9.99.  I’d suggest buying it as the re-watch value is high.

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Scared Stiff Rating: 9/10