The Principal 1987

The Principal

Critics Consensus

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50%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 10

51%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,202

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Movie Info

The new principal (James Belushi) of a drug-infested high school joins with a security guard (Louis Gossett Jr.) to clean it up.

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for The Principal

All Critics (10) | Fresh (5) | Rotten (5)

Audience Reviews for The Principal

  • Jul 11, 2019
    Ah the old, teacher gets sent to a shitty high school in a shitty area where all the kids are unruly and is tasked with trying to turn them around, routine. How many times have we seen this idea played out? I thought I had seen them all but up pops this James Belushi vehicle. So yeah, think along the lines of 'Dangerous Minds' and to some extent 'The Substitute' and maybe 'Toy Soldiers'. The last of which also starred Louis Gosset Jr. I might add. OK so the plot isn't quite the same as all of those movies, they each deviate but still have a common theme. In this movie whilst out drinking teacher Rick Latimer (Belushi) spots his ex at a bar with another guy. He attacks the guy and ends up damaging his car. For his punishment, the Board of Education sends him to another school in another district where there is a crime/gang problem (and lack of willing teachers). Not really sure why he wasn't fired truth be told. Or put in prison either as a matter of fact. Anyway naturally Latimer hates this decision but once at the school decides to try and clean it up...with predictable outcomes. So as you can imagine the school is chock full of all the classic 80's stereotypes both with the students and teachers. The students are mostly made up of minorities and range from Latino gangster wannabes, punks, sluts, extras from a Vanilla Ice gig, jocks, and rednecks. Whereas the teachers are mostly white, middle-aged, wholesome looking, weedy looking, geeky looking, and completely out of their depths (although they seemingly know how to handle the kids to a degree). Gosset plays Phillips the school head security guard. An aging man who once had a shot at going somewhere in sports but got an unlucky injury. You get the impression that Phillips being black means he would be able to see eye to eye with some of the students. Talk to them on their own level, gain a bit of their respect or trust. One reason why he has survived in the job for so long. But this trope doesn't actually come up. You could also look into the old 'white saviour' motif in this movie, if you see it that way. You could say that Belushi plays the stereotypical white character that comes along to a poor area made up of minorities and saves them all. I mean you could look at it that way. But on the other hand, if the main character was also a minority then you wouldn't get that clash of cultures which is obviously the main crux (the only movie I know that has reversed that idea being 'One Eight Seven'). You also have to acknowledge that in reality the truth hurts, and that truth is there are many schools like this and mostly they tend to be made up of minority students. The school doesn't even have to be in a poor area to have the same issues really. The old class/poverty argument can be more of an excuse in my personal opinion. Being poor doesn't mean you have to join a gang or act like an arse in school. Obviously things are deliberately to the max in this movie. The school (a very typical huge American high school) itself is really dated looking and in a bad state. Literally everywhere is covered in graffiti. The entire place needs a paint job. Everything looks rusty or dirty. All the equipment is dated. The place looks like a literal health hazard truth be told. I can't believe there would be any schools that actually looked like this in reality, at least these days. As for the story and characters, well its exactly as you'd expect. You can virtually predict every scene, you know exactly what's gonna happen its that cliche. Latimer is a tough guy but manages to get through to a few of the kids. He visits one female student to try and bring her around, eventually succeeding of course. He gets into some scraps, some situations. Phillips acts more like the wise sidekick on occasion although he isn't of that much help generally. And in the end, in a long sequence that is typically over the top, Latimer must face-off against the main gang that rules the school. Although considering what has happened in schools over the years with shootings, maybe this isn't over the top anymore (it would have been when I was at school). The real problem with this movie is the casting of Belushi. This supposed to be a crime thriller but Belushi is badly miscast. Around the time this movie was made Belushi was mainly a funny guy actor, comedies or action comedies. This type of serious social commentary, mixed with some thrills, isn't really right for a young Belushi. Every scene which is clearly supposed to serious, and at times emotional, it just gets lost on Belushi. He isn't even that good with the small bits of action either as he looks terribly unfit and sweaty. Nowhere near as cool as he clearly thinks he is. Not that this movie would have been anything special with anyone else, its a cliche fest, but Belushi was just a bad choice in my eyes. The criminal students are actually the highlight here, much better performances from the 'bad guys'. Visually this looks quite good. I liked the sprawling ramshackle all-American 80's high school, and I liked some of the shots with the lighting effects. But apart from that its all very meh. Watching a chubby Belushi thinking he's ice cool as he rides around on his dated looking motorbike was cringeworthy to say the least.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Jun 21, 2011
    Exciting movie, entertaining and sometimes funny, The Principal, have the potential to be a good film. Problem: not so great direction and script.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 06, 2010
    A horrible movie about a horrible school and the horrible teachers who do horrible things to the students to try and enforce some rules. I hated this movie.
    Aj V Super Reviewer
  • Jul 08, 2009
    This is one of the movies where you get to see James Belushi as a tough guy so I suggest you take a look at this teacher who takes no b.s. at his new job at a tough high school.
    Lee K Super Reviewer

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