Dangerous Minds

Dangerous Minds provides Michelle Pfeiffer with one of the strongest women's roles of the summer in this true story of LouAnne Johnson, a nine-year career Marine who left the military to teach English at a California high school populated by what LouAnne calls "rejects from hell." The young and mostly unknown cast is outstanding. And Pfeiffer gives a funny, scrappy performance that makes you feel a committed teacher's fire to make a difference. The film also benefits from the sly touch of Elaine May, who collaborated with Ronald Bass (Rain Man) on this screen adaptation of Johnson's 1992 memoir, My Posse Don't Do Homework. Still, Dangerous Minds (lousy title) is too slick for its own good. John N. Smith, the masterful Canadian director of The Boys of St. Vincent, sets up a documentary reality in the classroom that is undercut by endless TV-style subplots that make LouAnne more an observer than a participant in her own story. Maybe producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Bad Boys, Crimson Tide) don't know how to let a strong female character carry the ball. Dangerous Minds often unspools like a hokey update of Sidney Poitier's To Sir With Love. Still, in a summer when most women are forced to play dumb and strip to thrill or kill, Pfeiffer does herself and her endangered species proud.

From The Archives Issue 202: December 8, 1975